By Jeanne Yacoubou, MS
Chobani introduced a coconut-based non-dairy yogurt to its product line in January 2019.
The VRG reported soon after that the natural flavors in Chobani non-dairy yogurt are all plant-derived.
We followed up with Chobani by email and phone about their non-dairy yogurt with these questions:
- Has the cane sugar in your non-dairy products been filtered through cow bone char?
- Are your cultures microbial? Have they been genetically modified in any way? If they have, is there any animal- or dairy-derived genetic material that’s been incorporated into the microbial genome?
- Are there any animal-or milk-derived ingredients (like lactose) or sugar that has been processed through cow bone char used in the growth media for your microbial cultures? If you are unable to tell us what is in the media could you tell us what is NOT in it?
The VRG spoke several times with the Community Loyalty Team at Chobani between February and May 2019.
We learned that in the non-dairy yogurt products:
•Cane sugar is the type of sugar used. (In other products, Chobani previously used evaporated cane juice which, incidentally, is never processed through cow bone char.)
•The cane sugar in the Strawberry and Mango drinkable Non-Dairy Chobani products has been processed through cow bone char. (There are 4 drinkable products and 5 spoonable ones made with non-dairy coconut purée.)
•In all other non-dairy products, the cane sugar has not been processed through cow bone char.
Regarding the cultures, Chobani employees told us that they use “all non-GMO ingredients in vegetable cultures.”
Because the phrase is vague, we rephrased the question by asking them if they use bacterial cultures grown on vegetable-based media.
They confirmed this and added that “lactose is not present in the media.”
The VRG received this email:
“Our food science team confirms that the live and active cultures found in Non-Dairy Chobani products are suitable for vegetarian diets…Chobani has rejected the use of genetically modified organisms, including in our yogurt cultures. Due to the competitive nature of the yogurt industry, our team declines to comment on the specific materials and processes used in the maintenance and proliferation of our live and active culture strains.”
Because the meaning of the term “vegetarian” varies among companies as well as people, The VRG followed up with a phone call for more clarification. We asked specifically if cane sugar or corn served as the carbohydrate source in the culture medium.
We were told that Chobani doesn’t call any of their products “vegan” as that term is not legally defined.
The VRG agreed and added that since the term “vegetarian” is also legally undefined, we ask companies for ingredient information or at least information on what is not present.
Then our readers can decide for themselves whether a food product meets their definition of “vegetarian” or “vegan.”
Again, Chobani declined to tell us the component(s) of its culture medium and also would not say if cane sugar or corn is absent from it.
The VRG recommends that consumers who want to know more, especially vegans and/or people sensitive to corn-derived ingredients (which are common in culture media), contact Chobani for more information.
The contents of this posting, our website, and our other publications, including Vegetarian Journal, are not intended to provide personal medical advice. Medical advice should be obtained from a qualified health professional. We often depend on product and ingredient information from company statements. It is impossible to be 100% sure about a statement, info can change, people have different views, and mistakes can be made. Please use your best judgment about whether a product is suitable for you. To be sure, do further research or confirmation on your own.
For information about various ingredients, see https://www.vrg.org/ingredients/index.php
To join The Vegetarian Resource Group, go to https://www.vrg.org/member/2013sv.php
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