Why does frozen yogurt contain sugar?

As a frozen yogurt developers and manufacturers in Europe, we are asked about sugar all the time. Whether it’s to produce a sugar free frozen yogurt, to produce a “no added sugar” frozen yogurt, or just to reduce the sugar content in certain frozen yogurt recipes.

We also get asked things like “why can’t we have a low sugar frozen yogurt?”, “can’t we use another sweetener instead of sugar?” and “why does frozen yogurt have higher sugar than normal yogurt?”. We also have to compete with the myth that frozen yogurt is just ice cream with loads more sugar. It’s NOT!

There are two key factors that impact upon the development of a sugar free product.

  1. Product texture
  2. Legislation (EU Food Labelling Regulations)

So, texture. If you put water or milk in the freezer, it turns into ice – very, very hard, right? Ice cream and frozen yogurt are softer and scoopable. This is because we add what are called "solids" into the milk. These solids (fats and sugars predominantly, because protein tends to fall out of solution and create sandiness) bind with the water molecules to form different structures. This different structure means that there is less "free water" to freeze hard like ice. So, in order to create a product that doesn’t freeze into a solid ice-like block, there must be SOMETHING there to alter the liquid’s properties. The best molecules at doing this are sugars and fats. Typical! So that’s the first reason that frozen yogurt contains sugar. To make it scoopable straight from the freezer.

Now the legislation. Let me start by outlining the regulations* on sugar content labelling.

  • Sugars Free
    Product contains no more than 0.5 g of sugars per 100 g or 100 ml.
  • Low Sugars
    Product contains no more than 5 g of sugars per 100 g for solids or 2.5 g of sugars per 100 ml for liquids.
  • No Added Sugars
    A claim stating that sugars have not been added to a food may only be made where the product does not contain any added mono- or disaccharides or any other food used for its sweetening properties. If sugars are naturally present in the food, the following indication should also appear on the label: ‘CONTAINS NATURALLY OCCURRING SUGARS’.

So what does this mean? It means that even skimmed milk alone cannot be called sugar free or low sugar, due to the naturally occurring lactose sugar in milk. Milk is the major ingredient in yogurt / frozen yogurt, and skimmed milk with nothing added has 5g of sugars per 100ml, so a sugar free or low sugar product in the EU is challenging to say the least! I say challenging, not impossible. We have created a low sugar recipe, using concentrated whey protein instead of milk to create yogurt, but obviously this is expensive and whey is highly processed in comparison to milk.

The other key part of the legislation is the part that specifies that “no added sugars” means all mono- and di-glycerides, so it is not possible to just replace sugar with another sweetener, for example apple juice, date syrup or agave syrup, and call it “no added sugar”. Doing so would be illegal.

And that’s why frozen yogurt contains sugar. It’s part naturally occurring sugars from the milk and fruit purees, and part to stop the product freezing as hard as ice.

There is a myth that frozen yogurt contains MORE sugar than ice cream. That is certainly not the case for Plas Farm Frozen Yogurt, and I will look at publishing a comparison table to prove it on this blog soon!

I hope this helps, and please do feel free to contact us if you’d like more information.

*As listed in the annex of EU Food Labelling Regulation (EC) No 1924/2006.