Seven months without WholeSoy & Co.’s organic, dairy-free yogurt and fans are practically languishing in supermarket aisles writing bad poetry and lamenting the loss of their yogurt love.
Of course, I’m mildly exaggerating. But only mildly, because if you read the message boards of the Modesto, California-based company, you’ll see that people are starting to lose it.
“Ridiculous. It’s been excuse after excuse…” complained one customer after the company’s Jan. 8 blog announced that the soy was churning and the company was in the early stages of yogurt production.
Despite the promise of a new re-release date, the customer declared, “I’m sorry but I will no longer support you.”
Another defended WholeSoy, saying, “Have fun eating your substitute yogurt. I’ll wait to eat something that actually tastes great, regardless of timeline.”
When strangers engage in virtual fisticuffs over yogurt, you know times are desperate — but it doesn’t have to be that way. Not anymore! Because here comes Stonyfield Organic to the rescue! — can you tell I’m excited?
Quite by accident, I discovered that Stonyfield is making an organic, soy yogurt that is now truly dairy-free. When I called to verify the ingredients, a Stonyfield customer relations rep explained that as of this past December, the company no longer grows its cultures in dairy, thereby making its soy yogurt officially “vegan.”
While she did caution that Stonyfield uses the same equipment for dairy and soy, she also said the company — which also owns the factory — carefully cleans the machinery to prevent cross contamination.
I don’t know about you, but that’s good enough for me. I’m ready for this soy-yogurt drought to end!
That’s not to say that WholeSoy hasn’t fought valiantly to get its yogurt back on the shelves. The environmentally conscious, socially conscientious company has shared its tale every step of the way, but the powers-that-be are well aware that some customer loyalty is wearing thin.
In that same Jan. 8 blog, executives apologized for making promises “and not taking into consideration all of the potential pitfalls” the company might — and did — encounter. Knowing all they’ve been through and the millions of dollars coming out of the founders’ wallets, it is almost hard to hold the delays against them, when they were—as they put it— trying to be “honest and forthright.”
This has been playing out since May, when WholeSoy’s facilities closed suddenly, forcing them to move to another co-packing —yogurt-making — plant. We were promised yogurt by July. But when things at the new plant didn’t work out — something about the new facility not being able to meet the high demands of production — WholeSoy decided to take the plunge and build its own yogurt factory.
There were certifications, equipment installations, deep-cleaning, testing and calibrations. Then right before the holidays, parts on the cup-filling machine needed to be replaced and scheduling a technician ate up a couple more weeks. The company also wanted to make sure its employees had time with their families during the holidays. (Hope you’re paying attention, Kmart and Big Lots and all of the other stores open on Thanksgiving Day).
Even Whole Foods stepped in and loaned $400,000 to get WholeSoy closer to the finish line, though as we know all too well, that line has moved from June to August to fall —in October, then November — and December — and well, you get the point.
The Stonyfield Farms’ alternative should bring some sanity back to the vegan and dairy- allergic world, which has also been dealing with the absence of Trader Joe’s soy yogurt. Again, no word on its return, but if you’re thinking what I’m thinking, it will probably show up at the same time WholeSoy reappears. Not that either company has confirmed or denied my theory, but I think we can all guess who manufactures Trader Joe’s yogurt, can’t we?
Even with the new organic, dairy-free soy yogurt option on the block, I still hope for the re-emergence of the WholeSoy & Co. brand. It would be a shame to see such a “nice” company with a healthy product fail.