I follow a number of wellness influencers on Instagram out of both personal and professional interest: personal because I am eager to learn about anything that will make me look or feel slightly more dazzling and professional because I am invested in communicating important developments to your eyeballs so we can discuss them at length together in the comment section of this very website.
One such development came to my attention via Jeannette Ogden, the influencer behind Shut the Kale Up, who started regularly posting Instagrams of food topped with something called coconut cream vegan probiotic yogurt from a company called The Coconut Cult.
Beyond the fact that this mysterious yogurt looked less like yogurt than it did a cross between cottage cheese and whipped cream, the words “coconut” (yum) and “cult” (ooOooooOo) had me immediately intrigued. It took about four-Instagrams-worth of salivation before my curiosity got the better of me and I went into full stalker mode.
I started by clicking on The Coconut Cult’s handle and was greeted by the above photo of yogurt exploding like volcanic lava from the top of a jar like a fun science experiment. “We grow so many active strains into each individual jar that occasionally…it bubbles out like Kombucha,” the caption reads. Bubbly yogurt??? Gross. But also maybe yum.
Upon further investigation, I learned that the “active strains” refer to the 800 billion highly active probiotics that The Coconut Cult ferments into every quart of yogurt sold, including 15 strains of human probiotics, which apparently stick around in your gut for a longer period of time: “In my research and experience, resident forming strains like those in this yogurt—versus the transient ones in most cultured foods—make it unique and potentially more helpful than typical probiotic food products,” nutritionist Kimberly Snyder told Well+Good.
The only hitch? It costs a whopping $25 per jar, i.e. as much as a yoga class or two sad desk lunches, take your pick.
“The price is due to the super-high-quality probiotic strains and the fresh, high-quality coconuts,” The Coconut Cult founder Noah Simon-Waddell told Mind Body Green. “We don’t use any sugar, or any filler, which is really hard to find in store-bought yogurt, especially nondairy ones.” In other words, it’s not really a yogurt so much as it’s a probiotic supplement (which explains why the nutritional information on the back of each jar specifies a rather meager two-tablespoon serving size, which means a jar should last you 16 $1.50 yogurt breaks).
At this point in my research, I started seeing The Coconut Cult appear in my Instagram feed and my Instagram Discover feed with the same frequency as cute babies (sometimes simultaneously, per above), niche fashion start-ups and slime. It was EVERYWHERE — and not just on wellness influencers’ accounts. Even Kiernan Shipka, whose career and life I’ve followed with great loyalty ever since she had the best eyebrows on Mad Men at age 10, gave it a shoutout on her Instagram stories.
The Coconut Cult has certainly made good on its name. Not only has their Instagram account amassed tens of thousands of followers, but they also started selling The Coconut Cult merch — a logo-adorned “yoga tank” that, somewhat ironically, costs $5 less than a jar of their yogurt — a yogurt I was becoming increasingly desperate to try.
I reached out and they kindly agreed to send me three press samples — one of each flavor (original, mango cream and coconut cream). I opened the mango cream first and I’m happy to report there was no volcanic eruption. The consistency was different than most traditional yogurts — kind of runny, like something you’d drizzle instead of scoop. I got a little overzealous with my portion because I hadn’t had breakfast and was pretty hungry, so it was definitely more than the recommended two tablespoons, but I didn’t notice any adverse effects. I mixed it in a cup with some granola.
Even though I swallowed a substantial helping of wellness industry-induced skepticism along with my first bite, the yogurt was quite delicious. Super tangy and definitely a little “bubbly,” but in a good way. It tasted alive, which is such a weird thing to say about something that has the consistency of Vichyssoise, but I’m just here to report the facts.
During subsequent samplings, I ate it one spoonful at a time approximately twice a day, sort of like taking a vitamin. Besides being a healthy way to indulge my taste buds’ very insistent demand for “just a bite of something sweet” after meals, I pretty much immediately noticed the positive effects of the aforementioned 800 billion probiotics on my digestive system. (That’s my delicate way of saying it helped me go to the bathroom, a benefit of probiotics you can learn more about in this article in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, if you’re looking for a fun beach read).
For the digestive benefits alone, I understand the aforementioned distinction between The Coconut Cult and a regular yogurt you might eat as a snack. If eaten one or two tablespoons at a time as a probiotic supplement over the course of three weeks (an open jar’s shelf life), The Coconut Cult is conceivably worth its initially exorbitant-seeming price tag, at least if you compare it to over-the-counter probiotic supplements which can cost around the same and are supposedly less effective. (According to what Simon-Waddell told Well+Good, the process of freeze-drying bacteria into a powder to make it into a pill form causes it to go into hibernation. The Coconut Cult takes those fancy, freeze-dried probiotics and wakes them up in coconut, which makes them ready to start working in your body immediately.)
It’s worth mentioning there’s also a sneaky “hack” for extending the shelf life of a jar of The Coconut Cult if you want to get more bang for your buck. Lee Tilghman of Lee From America explains the whole technique in this lengthy Instagram post:
What do you think? Are tempted to try it, or are you already a card-carrying member of The Coconut Cult?
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