Michael Macrone
Articles & Essays

Dannon vs. Colombo: Thrilla in Vanilla

by Michael Macrone

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They huddle about the testing table, which is covered with squat, semi-cylindrical eight-ounce containers. They are sipping nervously at the water supplied for between-taste mouth cleaning. They fidget. They are determined. And now they are ready.

The Task: deprived of their visual faculties, to determine in a comparative study the Best Yogurt—to, using but their well-trained taste buds, sort the assemblage of flavored dairy cultures into the delightful and the dismal.

The six panel members are not novices. They are yogurt-hardened veterans of their own private and fastidious “taste-tests,” primped with critical preconceptions, cynical, sardonic, yet prepared to submit their (better) judgement to the blindfold test.

The Yogurts: selected from the two most popular brands—Colombo (spiced apple. strawberry-banana, vanilla-honey, lemon), and Dannon (dutch apple, banana, strawberry, lemon, boysenberry). Not an encompassing selection perhaps, but to the point, diverse, yet of manageable size for swift comparison.

A Few Facts: Dannon yogurt tends to be less fatty and contain fewer carbohydrates than Colombo. Colombo is made from whole milk, Dannon from skim. Dannon tends to prefer fruit to sugar; Colombo often uses sugar as a first ingredient. Dannon contains more protein.

Preliminaries: The yogurts are mixed by spoon and arranged on the testing table. The panelists queue up for individual blindfold testing of selected yogurts, uninformed of brand or exact flavor.

SARAH F. finds Colombo spiced apple “overly sweet” but “creamy” with “no discernible fruit lumps”; Dannon strawberry is found to have a distinctive fruity flavor but is a bit “slimy.”

ROBERT G. tests the apple yogurts. The Colombo spiced apple is rated as distinctive, with definite fruitiness and cinnamon tang; it is pleasant-tasting and smooth. The Dannon is discerned to contain larger fruit chunks but is more “bland,” having no clear taste.

Yogurt authority DEBBIE G. tests the banana-strawberry group. The first sample, Dannon banana, is “strawberryish” and very sweet; Colombo strawberry-banana has definite strawberry-ness and is creamer; the final sample, Dannon strawberry, is, of course, at this point thought to be the banana so is found curiously lacking in strong banana flavor.

KATHERINE K. tastes the lemon yogurts, finding little difference between the two, but the Dannon is preferred as less sweet and less chemical. The Colombo “tastes like lemon extract.”

DAVID L. tests the same yogurts as did DEBBIE G. Entering the taste-test with the definite predisposition to Dannon yogurt, this panelist immediately and obliviously labels Dannon strawberry as “horrible” and “incredibly artificial.” The Colombo is “very sweet” with strong strawberry flavor and creamy consistency. A big portion of Dannon banana pleases DAVID, for it is “fruity with warm creaminess” and of a fine culture.

ADAM B. and MICHAEL M. submit to similar tests on what is at this point warm and watery yogurt, having thus lost much of its taste and most of its appeal. ADAM prefers Dannon apple to Colombo because it tastes “more natural” with “more natural fruity goodness.” Subjecting himself to the lemon flavor, MICHAEL accurately detects the distinctive aftertaste of the Colombo and prefers the “stickier” Dannon, which has “more character.”

General commentary: Liberal sampling of all flavors ensues and general conclusions are presented. Dannon is the preferred brand, with the banana and apple flavors scoring high. However, boysenberry is given the universal thumbs-down as a bogus flavor and a “wimpy” yogurt. Colombo apple and strawberry-banana are met with approval, but Dannon lemon is preferred to Colombo. Colombo vanilla-honey is rejected along the same lines as Dannon boysenberry. In general, Colombo is found to be of smoother consistency but to taste more artificial. Dannon wins on its qualities of fruity goodness and naturalness. DAVID L., in dissent, is crushed by disillusion with the quality of the evening’s sampling of Dannon. All agree that after a grueling round of yogurt tasting, appreciation of flavor and quality wanes. They’ll stick to the less intense enjoyment, in private, of their favorite flavors.

– 30 –

Originally published in the alternative weekly Fresh Fruit (April 30, 1980)

Thrilla in Vanilla

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