is it really frozen yogurt?
Pinkberry in culture clash
Regulators say its product doesn't qualify as frozen yogurt. For some devotees, that's OK.
By Kimi Yoshino, Times Staff Writer
May 10, 2007
By any other name
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- State's stand
It's frozen. It's sour yet sweet. It's dispensed in a twist.
But is Pinkberry really yogurt?
That's the uncomfortable question swirling this week around the uber-trendy, Los Angeles-based chain that has attracted legions of calorie-counting, yoga mat-toting devotees and spawned a spate of imitators.
"Crackberry" addicts, prepare for your favorite dessert to take a licking from California Department of Food and Agriculture officials. Their answer:
"You can't call a product frozen yogurt unless it's mixed off-site and delivered to the site as frozen yogurt," said Steve Lyle, a department spokesman.
Pinkberry executives concede that their product is made with a powder and mixed in-store. They say it includes plain yogurt, yet they wouldn't disclose what else goes into their refreshingly tart treat.
But a lawsuit might force them to take their secret recipe out of the deep freeze.
This week, a civil suit was filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court by L.A. resident Bryan Williams, 48, who contends that Pinkberry's powdered mix lacks the "good" bacteria cultures found in yogurt.
"For lack of a better word, it's just dessert," said Williams' attorney, Michael Amir. "We're just asking for them to … tell the public the truth."
Williams, a legal recruiter who lives in West Hollywood, could not be reached for comment, but Amir says his client is a health-conscious guy with no affiliation to any Pinkberry competitor.
Mary Glarum, another attorney for Williams, said: "We're not asking for punitive damages…. The goal is to just have them come clean about what they're doing so that people can make an informed decision when they buy the product."
But Pinkberry founders — who now have 15 California franchises and three in New York — say they are "under attack" by imitators. The suit, they say, is just the latest salvo from a slew of bitter rivals.
Pinkberry "is yogurt, absolutely 100%" vowed company President Young Lee, who said he's working with the state to resolve the concerns. "We are more frozen yogurt than other frozen yogurt."