The search for a better yogurt.
Liberté The French are famous for their love affair with yogurt, and although Liberté originates in Francophone Canada, a land whose chief culinary achievement might be fries slathered in gravy and unripe cheese, the brand strives, by its own description, toward the "Méditerrannée yogourts" of the Old World. Liberté explains to us that this means "a limited quantity of ingredients," including "probiotic 'bioghurt' cultures," that supposedly make for a "smoother" product.
In the case of Liberté's low-fat plain yogurt, smoother seemed to mean runny: Although some panelists imagined that this product's thin, slightly sour body would serve as "a great base" for fruit, oats, and other incidental roughage, the general consensus was that it ran too liquidy in its pure form. Our jury had more pronounced reactions to the brand's full-fat "Méditerrannée" strawberry cup. Like extra inches added to the barrel of a woodwind instrument, the higher fat content seemed to transform the timbre of the yogurt, giving it a thicker, "whipped" texture that reminded several tasters of soft-serve ice cream. This was by no means an unwelcome effect. But the fruit additive itself was too sweet—"like eating a NutraSweet packet," as one person put it—and lean on flavor. It didn't exactly court the eye, either, having what someone described as the dusky pink hue of "milk after some sugary cereal has been in it."
Visual appeal: 5.8
Visual appeal: 5.7
Wallaby There's a persistent narrative—originating in the days of ancient empire, hammered down by Marco Polo, and carried in some form or another all the way to the J. Peterman Co.—wherein an intrepid traveler stumbles on a product in the outskirts of the known world and imports it, as a revelation, back home to the motherland. In the case of Wallaby, this land of untold secrets is 1990s Australia, and the product is the ambrosial yogurt of the Australian people, no doubt heretofore untasted in the modern world. Quoth the lore: "They wondered why this style of yogurt was not available back home—they were sure that Americans would enjoy its unique qualities." Australian yogurt, we are told, is completely unlike American yogurt because it is "fresh, subtly sweet and creamy, [using] a slow cooking process to create a naturally smooth and creamy Australian-style texture." Smooth and creamy yogurt? This, our panel had to try.
Generally speaking, we liked the company's organic low-fat plain. Despite its exotic premise, Wallaby—which is based in greater Vallejo, Calif.—was in fact regarded by several people as the most quintessentially "yogurty" product of any we tasted. It dripped off the spoon without being runny; its color was a pleasing, even white. We were less enamored of the low-fat strawberry variety: The flavor once more had the air of something phony and oversugared. Two people said it tasted like Pez. The fruit bits suspended in the yogurt had fulsome, almost rancid-seeming sweetness. It's hard to believe this was the type of flavor that inspired Wallaby's founders Down Under. But, then again, Australia has been known to have curious notions about fruit.
Visual appeal: 7.2
Visual appeal: 5.9
Fage Fage—which, thanks to an unfortunate typography choice, is known in certain circles by the unappetizing sobriquet "Face"—is the largest dairy company in Greece. In 2005, though, the manufacturer set up shop on this side of the Atlantic and since then has produced its U.S.-market yogurt in upstate New York. Like skyr, Greek yogurt is strained of its whey, a process that gives it a thick texture even at low fat levels. This type of yogurt is no longer as novel as it was some years ago—many big yogurt producers today have their own Greek-style line—but so far, its cliquish appeal hasn't worn off.
Fage bills itself as "ridiculously thick yogurt." Our panel did not disagree with this assessment. Several people said that Fage Total (which is to say, full-fat) in its plain form looked and felt a lot like ricotta cheese. We couldn't fathom adding the likes of granola to such a dense product, but some could imagine using it as spread. ("I'd put this on a baguette with raspberries!" one panelist proclaimed.) Even those people who found Fage's heft "a little scary" seemed to like its flavor—"inexplicably good," in the words of one juror.
Strawberry Fage Total was also our favorite of the fruited yogurts. The jamlike strawberry flavoring (which must be stirred in) was described as "natural-seeming" and "the most fruitlike in taste." The thickness of the yogurt kept the fruit from dominating in sweetness, too, even though the fruit bits appeared larger than those in the other products. A couple of tasters said the texture of the yogurt and the distribution of the fruit reminded them of ice cream. Even as we affirm our vows to yogurt, after all, our souls never stop lusting for dessert.
Visual appeal: 6.4
Visual appeal: 8
Nathan Heller is Slate's "Assessment" columnist. You can follow him on Twitter.