When frozen yogurt hit the commercial food scene in the U.S. in the late '70s and subsequently boomed in the early 1980s, it was a huge hit with health-conscious, workout-obsessed Americans who were thrilled to have a lower-fat alternative to ice cream. Even though its popularity chilled out in the '90s and aughts, frozen yogurt has returned on the scene en masse in the last few years in the form of the soft-serve shop with an extensive toppings bar. But however you enjoy your froyo, you’ll be sure to enjoy these cool facts about it almost as much.
1. IT DOESN’T JUST COME FROM COWS.
Like regular yogurt, cow’s milk isn’t the only milk that is used to make frozen yogurt. The milk of sheep, goats, and water buffalo are sometimes used in the froyo process in the U.S., while camel and yak varieties are available in the Middle East and Western China, respectively.
2. IT’S FAIRLY NEW IN TOWN.
Yogurt itself has been around for ages, with origins in the Middle East and India about 5000 years ago, but the idea to freeze it, at least as far as we know, came about fairly recently: The first commercial brand, Frogurt, was introduced in New England in the early 1970s, and was served in scoops, in the style of ice cream.
3. IT DIDN’T TAKE LONG FOR MANUFACTURERS TO FOLLOW THE POPSICLE MODEL.
Yogurt giant Dannon was among the first to jump on the blossoming trend, with its 1979 release of “Danny,” a packaged, fruit-flavored frozen yogurt pop on a stick with a chocolate coating. Dannon's pop became the first perishable frozen treat to be distributed nationwide.
4. TCBY HELPED REPLACE THE SCOOPS WITH SOFT-SERVE.
In 1981, Arkansas’s TCBY changed the yogurt game when it began offering yogurt in soft-serve format, dispensed by a machine at the point of sale. When TCBY started out, the acronym stood for “This Can’t Be Yogurt,” but a 1984 lawsuit by competitor I Can’t Believe It’s Yogurt inspired the company to create a back-ronym, so now it stands for “The Country’s Best Yogurt.” And they're still making froyo innovations, like being the first to offer Greek frozen yogurt, dairy-free, and vegan options.
5. DON’T CALL IT A COMEBACK. (IT'S BEEN HERE FOR YEARS.)
It’s true that frozen yogurt experienced a lull in popularity for a couple of decades, but it has surged right back, and then some! In 2012, sales of frozen yogurt were $194.9 million, with 121 million servings of frozen yogurt sold—totally decimating its peak sales of $25 million in 1986. (Adjusting for inflation, $25 million would be about $54.3 million in 2016 dollars, so it has more than tripled its earnings today when compared to 30 years ago.)
6. IT HAS BEEN HONORED WITH ITS OWN MONTH-LONG CELEBRATION.
As of 1993, June is National Frozen Yogurt Month in the United States (in close pursuit of its obvious natural rival, National Ice Cream Month, which happens in July). It also has the more specific National Frozen Yogurt Day on February 6 (not during a month many of us crave frozen treats, weirdly). Many yogurt shops celebrate the day, as well as the month, with free froyo and discounts.
7. THE COMPETITION IN THE FROZEN YOGURT MARKET IS STIFF.
Although TCBY ruled the froyo roost for decades, it’s no longer number one, despite recent attempts to rebrand itself with new décor and updated self-serve machines. As of 2015, the front-runner is California-based Menchie’s, with 13.5 percent of the market and 300 U.S. locations—which is no mean feat, considering it was only established in 2010. TCBY trails with 10.8 percent of the market and 518 locations, and then Yogurtland, sweetFrog, and Red Mango round out the top five.
8. YOU COULD BUY IT DRY.
Originally, frozen yogurt was made using—unsurprisingly—real yogurt as a base. But these days, it can begin in powder form, which is then mixed with water or some other liquid and poured into a soft-serve machine.
9. IT’S NOT NECESSARILY MADE OF YOGURT.
Although yogurt, when unfrozen, is regulated by the FDA and requires a Live and Active Cultures seal, frozen yogurt is not, and it legally may or may not contain live cultures, so you may want to check your labels.
10. IT HAS POWERFUL ALLIES.
Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan clearly can’t resist froyo—she was responsible for the installation of the first frozen-yogurt machine in the Supreme Court cafeteria. As such, Kagan joked that she’ll be remembered as the “frozen yogurt justice” in the annals of history. Not that that’s a bad thing, Your Honor.
11. IT REACHED NAMESAKE STATUS.
And it’s not just Justice Kagan who has a soft spot for the soft-serve. Continuing its adorable theme of naming each version of the Android OS after a dessert, Google’s Android 2.2 release, unveiled in 2010, was codenamed “Froyo.” How sweet.
All images via iStock.