Chobani Yoghurt's Anti-Science Stance is Annoying UPDATED

I have nothing against Chobani Yoghurt. In fact, I like it. Even more importantly, Huxley likes it.

But the image above annoys me. It says "Nature got us to 100 calories, not scientists. #howmatters"

This is in accord with their latest ad, here:

OK, I have three challenges for Chobani Yoghurt.

First, demonstrate how science is not related to your yoghurt production AT ALL. Chances are you use methods of ensuring that your product does not contain harmful bacteria, or that the bacteria is killed off or removed during the processing cycle. Almost all food manufacturers use various methods to do this. These methods are the product of food safety science. Yes, that is a science. I've even been to an international conference of those scientists (it was very interesting). Chobani Yoghurt, do you use NONE of the methods developed by food safety science in producing your product? I doubt if very much. It is essential that you produce a safe product, and #howmatters.

Second, I would like to see verification that all of your product does not fall into the category of products that includes artificial sweeteners, monoculture big-ag produced corn sugars, or use bee-colony-killing pesticides during the production of any of the ingredients, etc. etc. That all may well be true, but I doubt it. I'm looking at a container of Chobani Pineapple Yoghurt. The milk from which the yoghurt is made is pasteurized. That is science. Germ theory. #howmatters. You use pineapple and evaporated cane juice. Was the pineapple from Hawaii? Did you know that Hawaii produces less food than they need to eat because the agriculture there is industrialized, even though the population today is similar to pre-colonial times when they used less land to produce an abundance of food? Chobani Yoghurt clearly does not support locivory! #howmatters You use pectin. Here is what Wikipedia says about how pectin is produced:

The main raw materials for pectin production are dried citrus peel or apple pomace, both by-products of juice production. Pomace from sugar beet is also used to a small extent.

From these materials, pectin is extracted by adding hot dilute acid at pH-values from 1.5 – 3.5. During several hours of extraction, the protopectin loses some of its branching and chain length and goes into solution. After filtering, the extract is concentrated in vacuum and the pectin then precipitated by adding ethanol or isopropanol. An old technique of precipitating pectin with aluminium salts is no longer used (apart from alcohols and polyvalent cations, pectin also precipitates with proteins and detergents).
Alcohol-precipitated pectin is then separated, washed and dried. Treating the initial pectin with dilute acid leads to low-esterified pectins. When this process includes ammonium hydroxide, amidated pectins are obtained. After drying and milling, pectin is usually standardised with sugar and sometimes calcium salts or organic acids to have optimum performance in a particular application.

Pectin is great, but it is not produced without science. #howmatters.

Third, your label on the yoghurt is simply anti-science. Hey, I love the fact that you guys are anti-big ag, even though you ARE big ag, and I think we need to totally redo how we produce our food. But your claim to be all natural and stuff smells a lot like Greenwashing to me. That itself is bad, but not terrible. But throwing science under the bus is appalling. We are having enough trouble in our society with people throwing science under the bus ... climate change science denialism, anti-evolution activism, anti-vaxxers, etc. ... that we don't need a major yoghurt company adding to the mix. So, my third challenge to you is to do something constructive with your presumably massive profits to support science in some way. STEM programs, climate science legal defense fund, NCSE support, something along those lines.

I'm sure you can figure out a way to do this, and use the results positively in your marketing. But remember, #howmatters.

I've received the following note from Chobani's Customer Loyalty Team:

We apologize about the confusion! No offense meant to the scientific community. This lid is simply an ode to no preservatives or additives.

We thank you very much for your feedback and will pass along your comments.

So, that's good. We look forward to Chobani kissing and making up to science in some appropriate way!

More like this

Contrary to what American biophobia might lead people to believe, it is very easy indeed to make yogurt without having deadly pathogens materialize in it, and in fact difficult to produce a product that looks and tastes like good yogurt but is dangerous. People have been fermenting foods for thousands of years without the benefit of Science specifically because doing so makes them safer and more easily preserved.

Not necessarily on an industrial level. Nor can one process and distribute milk or many of the ingredients on an industrial level without serious food safety technology without a serious risk of foodborne illness. The fact that people have been making these foods for a long time is not relevant to the problems of large scale production, long range transport, and storage. So, no, not really.

Fermenting foods deliberately, in fact, preserving them in any way, IS science. By definition.

Just jump about 1 min in and check out the lack of science going on... I'm sure all the gauges and sensors are there for effect only.

And I think the 100 calorie accomplishment doesn't have anything to do with "preservatives" (like the Chobani response mentions) but more to do with sweetening using low-calorie additives that are found in some plant rather than created chemically by people. The message they are sending is so unclear that their own PR people can't seem to decode it...

By Seth Finck (not verified) on 20 May 2014 #permalink

Article seems to be ranting against the wrong thing and missing the point...

Seth, that may be. I wanted to check out more about the product's ingredients but my wife took all the Chobani to work.

Babby: What is the point I'm missing?

Chobani is shit and they dump toxic sludge. I apologize about the confusion! No offense meant to Chobani. Calling them shit is simply an ode to fear-monger anti-science marketing.

By Chuck Lasker (not verified) on 20 May 2014 #permalink

"This Lid Is An Ode To Stupidity, Please Ignore It"

By Andrew Heenan (not verified) on 21 May 2014 #permalink

Regarding ignoring it no. I can give a little more background. My wife is a science teacher. She and her students and lots of other people eat yoghurt. All the anti-science crap floating around in our society, including this particular "Lid," make it harder to do her job. It was she who brought my attention to this; she was about to eat her yoghurt, between science classes, and saw the anti-science remark. The image above is what she texted to me. I wrote this post and wrote to Chobani in the hopes that they might be encouraged to not blithely disrespect science in a day an age where such disrespect and anti-science rhetoric is doing real harm.

Question the science all you want, using fact checking, logic, the scientific method. But don't dismiss it.

I was half-joking on the ignoring; the serious side is is don't let it get to you.

Science deniers will not be persuaded by intelligent discussion (or any other kind); their 'apologies' are sad and unhelpful.

Suggest to your wife that she buys an alternative brand.

Focus on things that matter - like fighting for better education. Don'r obsess over lost causes.

By Andrew Heenan (not verified) on 22 May 2014 #permalink

Ignorance, not making a connection, or purposely shilling to attract people who are ignorant? Possibly a mixture here.

I was reminded of this story yesterday morning when I stopped to grab a coffee at our local bagel shop. There was a woman standing outside the shop, wearing a shirt that had this printed on the back:

I prefer butter to margarine because I trust cows more than I trust chemists.

She was outside the shop because she hadn't finished her cigarette. She would seem to be the kind of person at whom the manufacturers of this product are trying to guide advertising.

"Chobani has been ordered to change their yogurt's labeling in England and Wales after a judge ruled it misled shoppers into thinking the yogurt was made in Greece" - Wikipedia

Looks like they'll say anything to sell of a pot of "greek style" (not Greek!) Yoghurt.

And if they used a bit more science, perhaps they'd have avoided a major product recall in 2013.

I wouldn't touch the stuff. Vote with your money. That's the only language they understand.

By Andrew Heenan (not verified) on 22 May 2014 #permalink

Andrew, actually, it is 4 yr old Huxley that goes for the Chobani.

Well. I suppose it is never too early to learn about boycotts!

I agree with the idea of "voting with your money."

However, there is considerable value in "bitching and complaining" about a specific practice that a company takes; it lets them know WHY you don't like them. If I don't buy chobani then the feedback chobani gets is simply that I didn't buy it. Why? Well maybe because my grocery store was out, I don't like to stir my food, I like taller skinnier containers, I'm sick of trying to pour thick greek yogurt over my fruit, or maybe it is because chobani puts messages under their lids that are derisive to science. The point is that they can't correct things unless they get clear specific feedback. Furthermore, maybe I really don't want the company to go under, I just want them to change the idiotic lid messages (I honestly don't know enough about the company as a whole at this point to be convinced that another company would better fill that niche).

By Seth Finck (not verified) on 23 May 2014 #permalink


I do agree; they need to be told where they're going wrong.

And they have been.

I'm not talking about organising an Internatuional Boycott on the basis of one childish lid message; I'm just saying *I* wouldn't buy from any company that spreads stupidity; I'd feel guilty supporting them. The world already has enough!

(Just as I'd never buy from a company that spams me; in this Internet age, we need to develop new standards, and make 'em stick)

By Andrew Heenan (not verified) on 23 May 2014 #permalink

Yeah, Andrew, I also think we need to develop "new standards" and hold the companies to them. It would be really cool if there was a reputable place to check out companies (somewhat like the better business bureau but more comprehensive and inclusive of more social and environmental impacts). It becomes pretty difficult to keep track of all the different companies and their "true" impacts vs. how they market themselves. Does anyone know of a reputable site or group like that? Obviously it would be hard to make make quantifiable ratings of some aspects but at least a company could get a really bad rating if they were horrible.

By Seth Finck (not verified) on 23 May 2014 #permalink

There was an iPhone/Android app a while back that scanned barcodes, figured out what the parent company selling the product was, and told you abut any info known about their behavior. Right in the grocery store.

I installed it, it barely worked, there wasn't much information in the database yet, but it seemed promising.

Here's the post I wrote about it:…

I've not tried it since then.

As someone who worked many years of his academic career investigating various scientific aspects of yogurt, I find Chobani's comments about "no science" a little disturbing. First of all, yogurt fermentation involves a symbiotic relationship between two bacteria.. metabolically, growth and flavor development. Good quality yogurt needs a delicate balance between these bacteria. This is why I recommend using a starter culture rather than just using a previous batch to inoculate (to avoid overgrowth of just one bacteria). There is also a lot of science behind the heat treatment given the milk.. There is an optimum temp-time for stimulated growth of the bacteria, as well as obtaining a desirable texture (protein reactions). Fortunately, both of these attributes are optimized at the same heat treatment range. Too much heat is as undesirable as not enough heat treatment (e.g. raw milk). As a bit of a "yogurt purest", I find most of the trendy "Greek" yogurt products lacking in typical yogurt flavor (delicate "green apple" flavor") and of undesirable texture (heavy, chalky, etc.). Many "homemade" yogurts also would get low ratings by a sensory scientists. No Science? OMG. Hopefully this was a misquote .

By Ron Schmidt (not verified) on 12 Jul 2014 #permalink