General Mills Might Be Going Off The Rails With Yoplait Yogurt

I love yogurt and typically eat one cup every day.  I’ve not hopped aboard the Greek yogurt bandwagon, as I really don’t care much for the texture and taste, but I still stick with ‘regular’ yogurt.

A year or two ago, as part of an effort to eliminate the consumption of artificial sweeteners in my diet, I switched from the low calorie (100 calories in most varieties) to the regular version.

By and large, I stuck with three different brands that I enjoyed the most.  Yoplait, plus two store brands (Meijer’s Purple Cow brand, and Aldi’s house brand).  My wife usually got me whatever brand out of the three that was the best price for the week between sale prices, coupons, etc.

It’s been a good system, but just in the past few weeks, the Yoplait brands have made some significant changes:

  • Lower Sugar – Yoplait regular yogurt (red cups) now have 25% less sugar than they did before.  This reduces the calories in a cup (on average going from 170 to 150 calories in a cup).  To offset, they increased the amount of milk in order to attempt to keep the same texture.
  • New Advertising Campaign –  To go along with their new formulations, they seem to be making a push to more TV and print advertising.

On the surface, both of these things seem like pretty good movements.  After all, more healthy options seems to benefit all, and getting the word out has to be a good idea, right?

My Impressions

However, having seen both firsthand, I feel that either one could blow up in their face, and the combination could be catastrophic.  Let me explain:

  • The new taste – I tried out a few cups of the new formula and I was not overly impressed.  You can definitely tell the lower sugar content as it’s not as sweet.  If this was the only change, I’d probably be OK.   I could use a little less sugar in my diet, but the problem is that texture seems off.  It seems more chalky and thicker at the same time.  Honestly, it seems they sacrificed quite a bit just to offer a healthier option and cut 20 calories from their offering.
  • The new ad campaign – The TV spots are hard to miss.  They feature a young, pixie-type woman talking in a very heavy French accent about Yoplait.   The colors and general theme can only be described as loud and bouncy.  The first time my wife and I saw one of the commercials, we both looked at each other with an expression wondering if this was for real.  I said: “I don’t get it.” She asked, “Are they making fun of European people?”  I’m not quite sure what message they’re intending to send, but I’m pretty sure it’s not being very well received.

Social Media As A Gauge

mb-2015-07-signMany times, when I have opinions like this, I am not sure if I’m in the minority.  Maybe people love the new flavors or think that the commercials are fantastic.  Who knows?  So, in order to get a read, I’ll head over to Facebook and check out their product page.  I’ve looked at their Facebook page.  It appears I’m not the only one with concerns.  People think the product change is too drastic (New Coke, anyone?) and wish they hadn’t changed it or offered the new formula as an alternative instead of a replacement.  Many people don’t understand the commercials and turn the channel or fast forward through them as soon as they come on.

It seems the changes are not being well received at all.  Yikes!

I love yogurt. I’d hate to see my number of favorable options reduce from three to two options.  The way things are looking for Yoplait, I’m not convinced they’ll stay in  my rotation.  We’ll have to wait and see.

Brown Bag Ideas: How I Keep Lunch Fresh

I don’t go out for lunch.  Period.  Or at least, it’s pretty rare, maybe once or twice per year.  Outside of that, I brown bag it.  Well, actually I have a reusable bag that’s gray so as to save on waste, but you get the idea, right?

So, how do I keep it fresh.  Well, it’s not easy, but really the secret for me is mixing and Brown baggingmatching, all while staying within a few guidelines.

Generally there are four components to my lunch, and presented in the normal order which I eat them:

Read moreBrown Bag Ideas: How I Keep Lunch Fresh

9 Reasons Why We Don’t Buy Shredded Cheese

It’s been a long time since we’ve bought a bag of shredded cheese.  Back in my single days, that’s all I ever used.  I’m honestly not even sure I owned a cheese grater!

Now, we buy only block cheese and shred it ourselves.

Here are six reasons why block cheese is better than shredded cheese.

Less Chemicals, Part 1

Shredded cheese is very convenient but in order to make a product that sells, the companies have to make sure that it stays in shredded form.  If you shred your own cheese, you’ll often note that it will very quickly start to clump together.  That’s fine if you shred and use, but if this happened while it was sitting on the shelves, nobody would buy it!  So, after they shred it, they coat it with chemicals to make sure that it does not clump up.

Less Chemicals, Part 2

Another problem with shredded cheese is that it is quite
susceptible to mold growth.   Cheese in any form will start to mold when exposed to air.  Block cheese works great because there’s no air, but with a bag of shredded cheese, there’s just no humanly way possible to get the air out of the bag.  So, in order to lengthen the time before it starts going moldy, the companies, you guessed it, add more chemicals.  Now of course, they’ll tell you that the chemicals are perfectly safe, but why take the risk if you don’t have to?

Shredded cheese is difficult to melt

If you’re using shredded cheese in a recipe that calls for nice, gooey cheese, chances are you’ll be disappointed with shredded cheese.  I’m guessing that the chemicals are doing what they’re designed to do, but it makes for terrible melting.  Block cheese that you shred yourself, however, melts just fine.

Shredding cheese is easy

It’s really not that hard to shred cheese.  Grab a grater, open a block of cheese and away you go.  I do most of the shredding in our house, and an 8 ounce block doesn’t take but a couple of minutes. If you rinse off the grater right after you’re done, cleanup is a cinch.

If you shred cheemb-2015-03-cheesese, you get to eat cheese!

I’m the go-to guy in our house when it comes to shredding cheese.  I actually like it, but my little secret is that I like doing it because when I’m done, I grab a pinch of freshly shredded cheese and enjoy it!  Few things top that.

Block cheese is often cheaper

Depending on the cheese and the store, we’ll often find that you get an ounce or two less of pre-shredded cheese compared to what you get in for a package in block form, yet the price is the same.  To me, it’s worth getting the most cheese for my buck for the simple task of shredding it.

Read more9 Reasons Why We Don’t Buy Shredded Cheese

Pizza: Homemade vs. Carryout vs. Sit-Down

Pizza.  Who’s having it tonight for dinner?  Chances are, somebody reading this is already planning on pizza as tonight’s dinner.  And, now that I’m writing about it, chances are at least one more person will choose pizza for dinner.

It’s just that good!

Our family loves pizza, and we love all three kinds of pizza. I’m not talking three different brands of pizza, but I’m talking homemade, carryout, and sit-down. What’s our favorite?  Read on to find out.

To start off, here are some pros and cons of each.

Homemade Pizza

I never knew how easy it was to make homemade pizzas, but now we make a couple of different kinds.  In the cooler months, we’ll make a pizza in the oven using pizza crust yeast, which mixes in with flour and a couple of other quick, easy ingredients to provide crust.  In the summer months, we will get pita bread and make pizzas on the outdoor grill. Yum!

Read morePizza: Homemade vs. Carryout vs. Sit-Down

Red Lobster Appears Doomed For Failure

Ever since I was old enough to actually enjoy eating fish, Red Lobster has been a pretty solid option for getting some seafood.  We don’t go very often because we have a local place that we enjoy much better, but we’ve been a number of times over the years.

Recently, Red Lobster was sold by their former parent company, the Darden Group (who also owns Olive Garden as the most comparable type of restaurant), and the new holding company, Golden Gate Capital, just completed the sale, and has already announced some changes.

They boil down to two changes: They’re going to charge more money and they’re going to try to present the restaurant as more fancy.  Both of these things are with the intent to curb years of steadily declining sales.

After reading the article and absorbing the strategy, I think that Golden Gate Capital may have just wasted a whole lot of money.  Personally I don’t see things working out.  Here is why I think that Red Lobster may be doomed for failure based on the strategy and their history:

Read moreRed Lobster Appears Doomed For Failure

Should I Give Greek Yogurt Another Chance?

This may sound strange, but I actually recall the first time I heard of ‘Greek yogurt’.  I don’t remember the exact date, but I was talking to some co-workers and was excited about the fact that our grocery store had a ‘store brand’ yogurt that was about 30-40% less in cost, yet tasted just as good.  A co-worker asked, “Do they have Greek yogurt?”

I stared blankly at her, and only afterward did I learn what it was.  As it turns out, they did not yet have Greek yogurt.

But, you’d better believe that they do now!

I’ve always been fairly dismissive of Greek yogurt.

  • I’ve tried it, and it never really did much for me.  I’ve always enjoyed yogurt, the kind that many people would consider “regular”, which was the standard sold before Greek became all the rage.  I have always enjoyed flavored yogurt, so the standard 6 ounce cups were fine for me.
  • I always believed that the transition to Greek yogurt was just another way to sell something at a much higher price, as Greek yogurt seems to be about 50-75% higher in price from what I’ve seen.

Recently, I’m starting to think that maybe I should give it another chance.  Here are the factors that have changed my mind:

Read moreShould I Give Greek Yogurt Another Chance?

Trans Fats: When Zero Plus Zero Equals Heart Disease

Eliminating trans fats from food seemed to be the ‘big thing’ at the end of the 2000’s and the first part of the 2010’s.  And, if you look at most labels, you’d think that we were fairly successful at this.

Except you would be wrong.  Read on.

What Are Trans Fats?

mb-201311nutritionTrans fats are produced by hydrogenation, which is the process of adding hydrogen to vegetable oil.  The reason for doing this is to make the oil last longer.  Without hydrogenation, the oil would break down sooner, meaning the products in which it’s contained would not last as long.  So, the long and short is that hydrogenation was a pretty standard practice.

Read moreTrans Fats: When Zero Plus Zero Equals Heart Disease

At What Point Does Declining Value Become A Concern?

I’ve had a few recent situations where I was presented with declining value in varying circumstances.  In each of the circumstances, which I’ve briefly outlined below, I pointed out the declining value through social media circles, and I was surprised to see the response by other followers.  Or, more exactly, the lack of response.

Halloween Fun At The Zoo

The Detroit Zoo holds an annual event called the Zoo Boo.  It actually stretches across most of October, and on Friday and Saturday nights, families can come and walk through a portion of the zoo where there is a corn maze, seasonal themed displays, an activities center, and some handouts of candy and other treats.  It’s pretty popular and we have gone for the last three years.  So, we were thinking about going again this year, when my wife pointed out two changes:

Read moreAt What Point Does Declining Value Become A Concern?

Identify Clever Marketing Ideas To Stand Out

A couple of months back, we saw a Groupon for a local frozen yogurt place that had recently opened.  We looked into it and found that the prices were about the same as a couple of other places we’d recently visited and enjoyed.  They operate under the ‘new’ model where you pay by the ounce, so you get as much yogurt as you want, put as many toppings on as you want, and pay at the register based on the weight.

The Groupon was for a $40 gift card that you would pay $20 for, effectively giving you a 50% discount.  Even though we hadn’t been to this particular establishment, we took a chance.

When we went in for the first time, it wasn’t awful but it wasn’t spectacular.  The first thing that I noticed was that it was very small.  They basically sublet a small space within a grocery store, so this was by far the smallest frozen yogurt place I’d been into.  They had three machines, each that dispensed two flavors, or that you could swirl together by dispensing from the middle lever.

The yogurt was good.  The limited selection bugged me a little bit (as did the fact that they didn’t have crushed peanut butter cups as a topping that first time) but for the price, I was happy.

Both my wife and I became fans of them on Facebook, and a few days after we first went in, we saw a post that basically said that they were now serving nine flavors.  I didn’t think anything about this until the next time we were about to go in, when I wondered, just how did they offer nine flavors.  This didn’t make sense for two reasons:

  1. Most yogurt machines at these places have two bins per machine.
  2. This place was so limited on space I couldn’t see where they’d put another machine in without either re-configuring the space or having yogurt machines all over the store.

Read moreIdentify Clever Marketing Ideas To Stand Out

As If I Needed Another Reason To Love Honey Maid Graham Crackers

Those who know me well know that I’m a kid at heart when it comes to food.  If there’s a food that kids love, chances are, it ranks on my list of favorites too.

When I get a night to myself and am responsible for my own dinner, I always reach for a box of macaroni and cheese.

Put a snack table out, and I’m all for the chips.

Bake twenty types of cookies and I’m going for the chocolate chip cookies.

And, one of my favorite snacks ever is a graham cracker.  I have them on hand at all times, and not just for making s’mores.  It’s also worth noting that while I will buy many items with a generic replacement, graham crackers are not on that list.  They must be Nabisco Honey Maids.  Originals, please!

Read moreAs If I Needed Another Reason To Love Honey Maid Graham Crackers