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Latest products, tasty trends — in yogurt

TODAY food editor Phil Lempert takes a look inside the $3.5 billion-a-year yogurt industry to highlight the new, interesting brands that are destined to take the category even further.
/ Source: TODAY contributor

This morning we take a look at the rise of yogurt and some new products that are destined to take the category even further. But first, what is yogurt anyway?

All yogurt is made from milk and cream that have a culture of lactic acid producing healthful bacteria, either lactobacillus bulgaricus or streptococcus thermophilus or acidophilus. Read the labels to see if these are natural bacteria or acidified to produce the lactic acid necessary to sour milk into yogurt. Sweeteners may be added in the form of honey, sugar, or artificial sweeteners like aspartame or Splenda.

Like all dairy products, yogurt should be refrigerated to at least 40º F and will last for about one week at home. Read the expiration date before you buy. Freezing fresh yogurt is not recommended.

The milk solids and water will naturally separate in most yogurts after opening. Simply discard the water, or mix it back into the yogurt. Although some commercial flavors include sweetened lemon, it is best not to add fresh lemon or the yogurt will curdle and sour.

Regular yogurt
This is a mixture of whole milk of at least 2.35 percent fat and cream with the addition of the bacteria culture. It should be fresh-tasting, creamy and slightly tangy. One cup has about 150 calories, 8 g of fat and 296 mg of calcium.

Low-fat yogurt
This is made with low-fat milk that ranges from 0.5 to 2 percent fat and some additional water plus the bacteria culture. One cup has about 155 calories, 4 g of fat and 447 mg of calcium.

Nonfat yogurt
This yogurt is made from nonfat milk (less than 0.5 percent fat) and additional water, plus the bacteria culture. One cup has about 137 calories, 0.4 g of fat and 488 mg of calcium. Remember that the "nonfat" regulation set by the Food and Drug Administration allows for up to 0.5 grams of fat, and a product may still be labeled as "nonfat."

Flavored yogurts
Yogurts these days are flavored with coffee, vanilla, fruits or fruit jams, which turns yogurt into a sweet dessert. They are frequently high in sugar and fat and may have additional additives like gelatin for stabilizing and artificial preservatives for the fruit. If consumed in small quantities, this is a pleasant way to get calcium in the diet. One cup has about 200 to 250 calories, 3 to 5 g of fat and 239 to 419 mg of calcium.

Here's what is coming next:

Organic yogurt
Stonyfield Organic Yogurt: Stonyfield, the No. 1 organic yogurt brand, has been making organic yogurt for 25 years. All of the ingredients they use to make their organic yogurts are certified to assure adherence to strict organic standards. Organic standards prohibit the use of antibiotics, synthetic growth hormones and toxic pesticides and fertilizers. And, organic foods are produced in a way that enhances the earth's long-term health and fertility. They have an extensive line of organic yogurt products that includes those for baby, smoothies, soy yogurts, and Greek yogurt as well. 99¢ for 6 oz. cup.

Wallaby Organic Yogurt: Made in California's Napa Valley, Wallaby's Australian-style yogurts offer a rich, creamy texture and delicate flavor, achieved without the use of added stabilizers or extra sugar. They start with local organic milk from small family farms, and then blend in premium organic fruit to give their yogurts their incredible taste and luxuriously smooth consistency. Their signature style comes from a small-batch, extra-long culturing process that lasts about twice as long as conventional yogurts. 99¢ per cup.

Horizon Organic: Horizon Organic yogurts contain five live and active cultures (L. acidophilus, L. bulgaricus,B. lactis, L. casei and S. thermophilus). These cultures help keep your intestinal tract healthy by deterring harmful bacteria and encouraging the growth of beneficial organisms. In this way, the live and active cultures in yogurt may help support optimum digestive health and naturally fortify your body's defenses. 99¢/6 oz.

Rachel's Organic: This yogurt is 100% natural — no artificial sweeteners, colors, flavors or preservatives — and is made from milk without added growth hormones (RBST free). Rachel's also has the added benefit of DHA. The Rachel's "Essence" and "Exotic" product lineups contain alluring flavor blends from around the world — like Pink Grapefruit Lychee, Plum Honey Lavender and Pomegranate Acai. Each flavor showcases unique, exotic ingredients that are top of mind with today's health-savvy consumers. 99¢/6 oz.

Nancy's Organic Fruit-on-Top Yogurt: Nancy's organic yogurt is fully cultured with casei, rhamnosus, acidophilus, bifidum, thermophilus and bulgaricus. The Fruit-on-Top yogurts come in a new two-part combo pack. The top contains 100% real, whole fruits, lightly sweetened with honey, and the bottom cup contains unsweetened plain yogurt or honey yogurt. Both the fruit and yogurt are free of added cane sugars or coloring.

The next big trend? Greek yogurt!

Stonyfield Farm Oikos Organic 0% Fat Greek Yogurt: Called "yiaourti" in Greece, Greek yogurt is thicker than regular yogurt. Authentic Greek yogurt is made using a centuries-old straining process that removes the whey (liquid) from the yogurt. Oikos Organic Greek Yogurt is diet friendly, with 120 calories or less, 0 g fat and up to 15 g of protein per 5.3 oz. serving. It includes five live and active cultures, including L. acidophilus, bifidus and L. casei. It's certified organic, made with milk from farms that don't use toxic persistent chemicals and fertilizers, antibiotics or synthetic growth hormones. An excellent source of hunger-satisfying protein.

Oikos Organic Greek Yogurt: This brand has no artificial flavors, colors or sweeteners — no aspartame or sucralose. Flavors include Blueberry, Honey and Vanilla in a 5.3 oz. size, and Plain available in 5.3 oz. or 16 oz. containers. Oikos Organic Greek yogurt is available nationwide in natural food stores and select grocery stores. Suggested retail price is $1.99 per 5.3 oz. cup and $4.79 per 16 oz. tub.

Goat and soy yogurt
Redwood Hill Farm Goat Milk Yogurt: Redwood Hill Farm goat milk yogurts can be enjoyed by many people who are allergic to cow milk products. Starting with their best-tasting goat milk, they add a special blend of living cultures that create a classic yogurt flavor and include acidophilus and bifidus to promote healthy digestion. Handcrafted in small batches, the yogurt is completely natural and does not contain gelatin, refined sugar, preservatives, artificial colors or flavorings. In addition, Redwood Hill Farm's goat milk yogurt is made without antibiotics, added growth hormones, GMO's or toxic pesticides. Redwood Hill Farm yogurt is kosher certified by the New England Rabbinical Council.

Retail pricing is around $1.99 per cup, and it is available nationwide in Whole Foods and other natural food stores, as well as in many upscale grocery stores around the country.

WholeSoy Soy Yogurt: Naturally crafted from certified-organic, GMO-free whole soybeans, WholeSoy Soy Yogurt is an alternative to dairy. They start with their exclusive soy milk base and add live culture recipes to create a rich and delicious soy yogurt. Made with only the highest quality all-natural ingredients. WholeSoy is an independently owned company that is "committed to the health and vitality of our customers, our community, and our planet." Retail pricing is around $1.19 per cup, and it is available in Whole Foods and other natural food stores, as well as many supermarkets nationwide.

"Super yogurts" packed with even more health benefits:

Better Whey of Life Yogurt The first all-natural brand to bring high concentrations of whey protein to yogurt. Contains three times the protein (15-17 grams) and 1/3 less sugar than the leading yogurt. Whey protein is a superior protein for building lean bodies, toning muscle and losing inches around the waist, especially when combined with exercise. Made from nonfat milk with no added growth hormones, Better Whey of Life yogurt is packed with probiotics, prebiotic fiber and calcium. Available in five flavors: Acai Mixed Berry, Strawberry Banana, Peach Mango, French Vanilla and Plain. Retails for between $1.79 - $1.99 per 6 oz. cup.

Yoplait's Yo-Plus: With probiotic cultures that are specifically designed for digestive health. Yo-Plus is the only yogurt on the market with Optibalance™, a unique blend of probiotic cultures and natural fiber, which may help consumers regulate their digestive system when eaten daily. When compared side by side with Dannon™'s Activia™, both Yo-Plus and Activia contain active probiotic cultures and both are a good source of calcium (Yo-Plus provides 15 percent of the Recommended Daily Value). However, only Yoplait's Yo-Plus has the added benefit of dietary fiber, with 3 grams per 4-ounce serving, which provides additional digestive health benefits, plus vitamins A and D (10 percent of the recommended Daily Value). In addition to the special probiotic culture Bifidobacterium, Yo-Plus also contains the live and active yogurt cultures L. bulgaricus andS. thermophilus. Yo-Plus flavors include: Strawberry, Vanilla, Cherry, Peach, and the recently introduced Cranberry Raspberry and Blackberry Pomegranate. $2.79 per 4-ounce cup 4-pack.

Dannon Light & Fit 0% Plus: Dannon recently launched a new nutrient-dense, reduced-calorie, nonfat yogurt called Light & Fit 0% Plus to help with weight management. Said to contain 0% fat, 50 percent more fruit than regular Light & Fit 6 oz. nonfat yogurt and contains calcium and vitamins D and B-2 with 60 calories per 4 oz. cup. Flavors include: Vanilla, Strawberry, Cherry, Peach, Blueberry, Strawberry Banana. Available in 4-packs ($2.59) or 8-packs ($4.69) in stores nationwide.

Phil Lempert is food editor of the TODAY show. He welcomes questions and comments, which can be sent to For more about the latest trends on the supermarket shelves, visit Phil’s Web site at .