Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Pinkberry Peace Talks

You may have noticed our August 9 post regarding Pinkberry was taken down. At work Monday night I saw something from Pinkberry in my inbox. I was excited. I thought perhaps they had read our post and were contacting me to provide additional information or even inviting me to assist them in sorting out some of the points we had raised. Instead, when I opened the email I found a letter from Pinkberry’s attorney.

The previous post was not intended to offend Pinkberry or discourage our readers and clients from patronizing Pinkberry or similar yogurt shops. Rather, we wanted to present the pros and cons of frozen yogurt from a nutritional standpoint. We’d love to allow Pinkberry to approach this in a positive manner and have a dialog with us, our readers and their community as well.

Our Pinkberry queries:

1. Would you be open to presenting your nutrition facts in a manner that’s easier to understand?
Instead of having to multiply 120 calories per serving (if you like the pomegranate flavor) by 2.3 servings (if you choose medium), couldn’t you instead state medium pomegranate = 276 calories?

2. Have you considered flagging lower calorie or healthier options for your customers? We’re thrilled you added the mini size. Perhaps you could depict a mini or small Pinkberry with multiple fruit toppings so that it’s clear and inviting for clients with health or weight concerns to pinpoint their preferred picks. There is a huge range of options at Pinkberry and even a medium with more indulgent (though delicious) toppings is a treat, we think that’s fair to say.

3. In terms of those toppings, on your website the total fat isn’t listed. Is there a reason for this? Including the total fat would help when comparing consumers make educated decisions.

4. Can you clarify some swirl size questions? We didn’t know that some Pinkberry’s weighed their frozen yogurt cups for customers until hearing so in comments on our, now removed, post. Is this up to the particular franchise? Can customers request this? Does the machine have any valve to only dispense, for example, 6oz for a small? Our concern was that, in our unscientific experiments, a small appeared to be larger and smaller (different height and girth) from day to day or store to store.

5. And finally, the probiotics. How does Pinkberry’s probiotic content compare to other frozen yogurt stores? And do these probiotics survive freezing? While I have 2 nutrition degrees, my biochemistry is a little rusty and don’t really have good answers to this to share with my clients or readers.
Rather than resorting to threats and demands, we would welcome the opportunity to speak to Pinkberry to share our thoughts and hear their answers to the questions posed. Perhaps we could have a yogurt summit of sorts? Maybe we can meet at our local Pinkberry. I’ll have a mini Original with coconut and mango.
Which questions above are most important to you? Anything you’d like us to ask Pinkberry given the opportunity? Do you think we did the right thing taking down our previous post?


  1. In my experience, legal tends to be involved when a corporation or a brand feels they need to be on the defensive. And of course, that raises questions in my head, since, it seems to me, that it is a regular occurrence in the food industry.

    I read your post and was well aware that what you were sharing was your opinion, supported by information that Pinkberry freely provides. It was well thought through and as usual for FoodTrainers, presented information in a straightforward manner and was meant for discussion. What is interesting to me is that it seems like Pinkberry believes that your opinion has so much influence with your community that what you write could potentially be interpreted as fact.

    Personally, I feel like the request to remove the post was overkill, but that is just my opinion and I am certainly do not have the expertise of a corporate lawyer to guide me in determining what might be detrimental to a client - regardless of the format or how well information is annotated and/or presented.

    Net net – to me, it does not reflect well on Pinkberry and I wonder why they take offense to suggestions of making nutritional information easier for their consumer to understand. But again, that’s just me :)

  2. ugh! All of this reminds me of the big tasti-d debate from a few years ago. I think it's safe to say that if my serving size is in the hands of someone else, then I try not to eat too much of it. I always assume that these soft serve yogurt, ice cream and dairy treat places are getting away with murder in their nutrition information postings so I keep it light. They seem to have figured out some loop hole somewhere that exempts them from the WHOLE truth. A treat is a treat--if something tastes too good, it probably isn't too good for you.

    Meanwhile, you mentioned something with your eyes in an earlier post and that is why you cut out dairy and wheat. Given the HUGE trend in gluten-free, do you mind touching on that? I have tapered off gluten lately and would love to hear your thoughts. Lauren, you know I love this blog. Hope you are doing well!

  3. In the future I might suggest going directly to the food company with your questions and problem solving before posting publicly on a blog. You see the media do this all the time, and if they don't respond...then you can say they did not respond. If they did, you engaged them in the problem solving.

  4. Thanks to the anonymous commenter. The nice thing about our blog is that I feel it enables us to unite the food companies with our readers and their customers. They can see what we write, others responded to and add their two cents. I see it as a much more interactive version of your suggestion. We tried to reach Pinkberry prior to the original post, for their input, and in fact mentioned that in the post.

  5. Dear Pinkberry,
    Stop being a bully.
    Respond to Lauren's questions.
    Train your employees to consistently give servings that match your published nutrition info.
    And a few spoons of real ice cream tastes way better than a big serving of your stuff.

    A Foodtrainer Supporter

  6. I'm surprised that, in this day and age, Pinkberry got it wrong. You have an established business, a blog, a FB page, over a thousand Twitter followers, and are quoted in many online/mainstream media outlets.

    Instead of having their lawyer send a weak-ass "cease and desist" letter that is not only baseless but also antagonistic to the concept of social communities, they should have used the opportunity to start a dialogue with you. Would have garnered them much more respect and goodwill. It's always surprising to see which companies "get" this and which ones don't.

    Oh well...

    Will be interesting to see how they respond to this current post. Well done!

  7. Probiotics can definitely survive freezing...that is how they are stored and delivered for yogurt production. The real questions about probiotics are if they are present in significant amounts (1X10^8 or 1X10^9) and what type of strain they are.

  8. As a social media marketing consultant, I can tell you that Pinkberry handled this in the worst way possible. I'm disappointed that you caved into their demands and removed the original post, but legal threats do tend to get that response, as they anticipated.

    I would have advised them to: speak directly with you and respond to your questions. Provide you with additional information to support their case. And, offer an electronic coupon for you to share with all of your readers. Legal is a last resort, not an opening salvo.

    And, to the person who commented under Anonymous earlier, writing a blog post on this topic is exactly what we need more nutritionalists like Lauren to do - share their expertise and enlighten us. That's what a blog is for - a forum to pose questions, examine issues and have an open discussion. Perhaps the marketing dept. and legal at Pinkberry could learn from this experience and become a more transparent, open company, one who embraces discussion with the consumer. But, probably not.

  9. I agree with Richard; Pinkberry could have handled this much better. You weren't bashing them (in fact, you said you love the stuff--and I do, too!) and they could have used this as an opportunity instead of turning it into a PR disaster.

  10. Appreciate the comments. Richard, I just wanted to explain the removal of our original post. The post wasn't removed with any admission of wrongdoing on our part. We were steamrolled and I felt the truth/message wasn't compromised by snark removal. My sincere hope is to encourage Pinkberry to make certain changes for their customers and our clients. I didn't feel we could achieve this with them hating us. Social marketing consultant...interesting!

  11. I was just considering my own post on Pinkberry and Mogli Yogli when I ran across yours the other day. It was an excellent post (though frankly I didn't care so much for the boob comparison however it was popular with others) and I'm sorry you were pressured to take it down. It provided much needed information and insight so people don't think that because it is yogurt with live and active cultures it is healthy and don't think about the serving size or toppings. It is amazing in this day and age that the powers that be over at Pinkberry are so short-sighted and handled this so poorly. Definitely has left a bad taste in my mouth for them.

  12. Lauren,

    You may want to consider that you are giving Pinkberry tons of free publicity with your approach. The number of times their name appears on your blog only increases their brand recognition and search engine rankings. Regardless of what you think of them. They don't have any need to respond; in fact, they are benefitting without lifting a finger or paying a cent. You're doing them a huge favor, whether or not they ever address any of the issues you're persisting with.

    It's exactly why I don't use negative publicity in my writing. We focus on the power of positive attraction instead.

    Monika M. Woolsey, MS, RD

  13. Hi Monika:
    I think we see things very differently. I am not concerned at all if our post gives Pinkberry "free publicity" or where they come up in search engines. While they certainly don't have to repspond to me, I hope that they do. As for using "negative publicity", Foodtrainers' goal is objectivity. With many subjects, we give our take and then pose questions for our readers. Some comments are positive, some negative but many more simply food for thought. I do find it funny that you mentioned not using negative publicity but commented telling me my sincere post was "doing Pinkberry a huge favor" which doesn't seem all that sunny or positive. Again, I'm holding out hope that a simple conversation will let me move onto topics I'm more passionate about.

  14. This is ridiculous. Maybe the lawyers at Pinkberry work on a quota basis and need to go after X number of people/businesses a month they perceive are "threatening" there brand or image. However, I don't think Foodtrainer's original post warranted to be contacted by Pinkberry's lawyers in any manner. So, other than reaching their monthly quota, the only other reason I can think of is that maybe they do have something to hide....

  15. Hi, I actually work at Pinkberry, and yes we do weigh our yogurts. After every yogurt we swirl we weigh it to make sure it is near a specific weight for each size and if its under, we add a little point at the top, and weigh it again.