There were a couple problems from the outset. First, I noticed on careful examination that some of the yogurts I've purchased so far are in fact nonfat yogurts--which underscores the difficulty in choosing yogurts from among the many confusing options. I've decided to include these because the difference in fat content is generally small and, well, the stuff has to be eaten. Second, I had no idea how to do a taste comparison. Do you judge yogurt like wine--using color, aroma, and flavor? I was pretty sure swirling the yogurt containers would be pointless, but decided that, yes, essentially yogurt tasting is like wine tasting. I looked at color, scent, flavor, and texture. Each review also gives information about sugar and milkfat content and price.
Lucerne (Safeway Brand) Low-fat Vanilla Yogurt
($0.40 for a 6 oz. container, or $0.07 an ounce, 1% milkfat, 33 grams sugars)
Very pale whitish color--rather like goat's milk cheese, but semi-transparent. Has a somewhat gelatinous look. Smells like yogurt--a slightly sour scent--and distantly of vanilla. Stirred, it began to look a little creamier. There was nothing to stir up from the bottom. Tastes very sweet with only a moderate vanilla character. Not at all unpleasant, but has no really outstanding characteristics. I did, however, prefer this to what turned out to be the Yoplait yogurt, and it is considerably less expensive. Sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup and sugar. Certainly the best value of any of the yogurts I sampled. This isn't my style, but, if you like it, there doesn't appear to be anything cheaper, and many more expensive yogurts were not necessarily better, in my view.
Siggi's Icelandic Style Non-Fat Vanilla Skyr
($2.49 for a 6 oz. container, or $0.42 an ounce, 0% fat, 10 grams sugars)
A different beast altogether. Skyr is Icelandic for "thick yogurt," according to the label, and that's appropriate. Thick and creamy-looking and heavily flecked with bits of real vanilla bean. Slightly creamy color. Thick enough that you can turn the container upside down and the yogurt doesn't budge. It sticks to the spoon, making it somewhat difficult to stir. Nothing to stir up from the bottom. Maintains a rustic, cheesy texture. Not much of a scent, but it has a very distinctive flavor. A real yogurt tang. Not sour like unsweetened plain yogurt, but does not taste sweet either. Thick, sticky texture. Not a lot of vanilla flavor, but distinctive and interesting. Feels authentic. I found myself liking it better and better the more I ate. Probably unappealing if you're used to heavily sweetened yogurts, but delicious if you like real yogurt flavor. Sweetened with agave nectar. Real vanilla beans. On the downside, it's expensive--six times the price of the Lucerne product.
Yoplait Low-fat French Vanilla Yogurt
($0.69 for a 6 oz. container, or about $0.12 an ounce, 1% milkfat, 27 grams sugars)
Noticeably yellowish color (artificially colored with annatto and turmeric extracts; simulated egg yolk to make it French vanilla?). Slightly gelatinous look. Creamier, but still fairly thin after stirring. Nothing to stir up from the bottom. Has a strong scent that suggests caramel more than vanilla. The gelatinous texture was a bit unpleasant, but I recognize that there are many styles of yogurt and this may appeal to some people. Very sweet to the taste. Although this has less sugar in it than the Lucerne yogurt, it tastes sweeter for some reason. Flavor a bit suggestive of caramel or something toasty, but not exactly vanilla. Has no real yogurt flavor. Tastes mostly like corn syrup. Sweetened with corn syrup and sugar. I liked this least of the first three.
Wallaby Organic Low-fat Creamy Australian-style yogurt
($0.75 for a 6 oz. container, or $0.13 an ounce, 1.5% milkfat, 20g sugars)
Plain white with a quite liquid look to it, but not at all gelatinous like some brands (see above). Creamier when stirred. Nothing to stir up from the bottom. Clean vanilla and yogurt scents with good yogurt flavor. In other words it has tang not overwhelmed by sugar, but it is noticeably sweet. Medium body. Creamy texture, but not especially thick. Not exciting, but good middle-of-the-road yogurt. Wallaby is a brand I often have bought in the past. Moderately priced. Sugar from sugar cane.
Brown Cow Low-fat Vanilla Bean Yogurt
($0.99 for a 6 oz. container, or $0.17 an ounce, 1% milkfat, 25g sugars)
Firm rather than liquid, but not dry or stiff as in some cases. Smells of cream rather than sour like yogurt. Vanilla on the bottom. Stirring reveals vanilla bean flecks. Very nice creamy texture to this one. Full vanilla flavor, but yogurt tang masked by sugar. Quite sweet. Tastes a little like bananas, although there is no banana in it. Sugar from sugar cane. Excellent for its creamy texture, but doesn't really taste like yogurt because of the excessive sweetness. Overall, though, not bad.
Stonyfield "Oikos" Organic Greek Vanilla Yogurt
($1.00 for a 5.3 oz. container, or $0.19 an ounce, 0% milkfat, 20g sugars)
Very creamy-looking. Thick and creamy when stirred, not at all dry or cheesy in texture like some Greek-style yogurts (or the Icelandic-style yogurt reviewed above). Nothing to stir up from the bottom. Very nice yogurt tang. Moderate vanilla flavor. Has a distinct cheesy aftertaste balanced by attractive sour yogurt flavors. Tastes like real food. Remarkably rich and creamy despite the 0% fat content. Sweetened with sugar, but not so much that the yogurt flavors are overwhelmed. Excellent balance. Delicious. My favorite so far.
Continued (see below)--You can eat only so much yogurt at a time.
[The Great Yogurt Taste-off Part I--Introduction]
[The Great Yogurt Taste-off Part III--The Yogurts, Continued
[The Great Yogurt Taste-off Part IV--More Yogurts]