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Slick marketing is key to success of frozen yogurt


The frozen dessert industry has had one bright spot in recent years: frozen yogurt. Sales of frozen yogurt have been growing an average of more than 20 percent a year since the product made its debut in the late 1980s.

And while Americans have turned to frozen yogurt as a more healthful alternative to ice cream, in many ways its success is a triumph of marketing over the reality of fat and calories.

The milk used in frozen yogurt is usually more than 90 percent fat-free; the yogurt cultures give it a creamy taste.

But, lured by the success of their rich ice cream mixtures, manufacturers have recently begun adding cheesecake, brownie and other extras to their yogurts as well.

"When a label says it's non-fat yogurt, it's not necessarily so," said Wahida Karmally, a registered dietitian and director of nutrition at the Irving Center for Clinical Research at the Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center in Manhattan.

She said the "non-fat" and "low fat" labels refers to the yogurt itself, not things like cheesecake and chocolate pieces.

In addition, because of the healthful image of frozen yogurt promoted by companies' advertising, people tend to eat more of the dessert than they would ice cream.

One result, she said, is that these people end up getting much more fat and cholesterol than they bargained for.

Even frozen yogurts with the highest fat contents have much less per serving than most ice creams.

Ms. Karmally said an ideal frozen dessert should have no more than 3 grams of fat per cup, with at least 20 percent of the recommended daily dosage of calcium.

"High-fat yogurts may taste better," she said. "But it is not a healthy alternative."

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