Greek Yogurt Rises, But Is It Because We're Rich or Cheap?

Categories: Talking Points

chobani550.jpg
​The trendiest food in our refrigerators might be Greek yogurt, which has increased in sales 25-fold since 2005. It's so popular that it caused Goldman Sachs to downgrade the stock rating for General Mills, maker of now-unfashionable Yoplait.

The Atlantic Monthly
and NPR are both on the track of the phenomenon this week.

NPR reports that Chobani yogurt was created by Hamdi Ulukaya, who came from a long line of dairy farmers in Turkey, and was mystified by what passes for yogurt here.

Ulukaya told NPR: "And I started asking the questions, 'Why is this so sweet?' The answer was, well, Americans wouldn't eat unless it's absolutely, you know, very sweet, or they don't like the taste of yogurt. They wouldn't eat it."

Greek yogurt is more expensive than other types, and NPR links its sales to affluence, suggesting its buyers are rich, educated women in the Northeast.

Derek Thompson, senior editor at the Atlantic, speculates that people aren't eating Greek yogurt because it's more expensive than other yogurts; instead, they're looking for something cheaper than a full meal. He writes:

The taste of Greek yogurt is thick, like scooping avocado out of its skin. Sometimes I eat it for breakfast. I couldn't eat fruit-on-the-bottom Dannon yogurt for breakfast, because that stuff can have the consistency of melted ice cream and after I eat a cup, I feel like I've had a big glass of water, not a snack.

So here's a corollary to the conspicuous consumption theory. I don't doubt that many people eat Greek yogurt to feel, and project, a sense of cosmopolitanism. But I wonder if other middle-to-upper-middle class people fell for Greek yogurt as a cheaper solution for breakfast or a big snack, rather than an expensive solution for yogurt.

In other words, if you feel rich, flaunt it with Greek yogurt. If you feel poor, fill your belly with Greek yogurt. No wonder it's hot.

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11 comments
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Bluecoat1969
Bluecoat1969

Check your facts (or perhaps NPR should) - Chobani's parent, Agro-Farma, was the co-packer for Dannon Greek until Dannon built their own Greek production line.  When Dannon moved their production, Agro had to do something with their capacity gap, & Chobani was the result - they're successful on accident.

Lance Walker
Lance Walker

I use it to marinate lamb, chicken, etc.  Also sometimes use it as a curry base. 

Joe
Joe

What IS the difference between "Greek" yogurt and other kinds? I don't count adding sugar as a difference. As for texture, different yogurts labeled "Greek" have different textures.

I'm concluding "Greek" is another marketing gimmick. 

W Blake Gray
W Blake Gray

Joe, I believe the difference is that it's supposed to be made from full-fat milk in a richer, creamier style, and is supposed to be less sweet than non-Greek yogurt.

You are undoubtedly correct that with a product as hot as this, every yogurt maker is going to jump on the marketing bandwagon, and whatever meaning it originally had will be diluted. Not in Greece, but then that's a long way to go for yogurt.

Brian
Brian

It doesn't have to be made from full-fat milk, actually (though whole milk yogurt naturally has less whey). "Greek-style" generally is just yogurt that has a lower whey content--usually due to straining--and is made from cow's milk instead of Greek sheep's milk.

Mary
Mary

I eat Greek yogurt in the morning because it is filling and doesn't have a lot of calories. Love it!

Brian
Brian

Your first batch needs to start with a cup of store-bought live culture yogurt (I used Fage), but it's self-supporting after that. Heat the milk in a double-boiler to 180F (this kills all bacteria), then let it cool in a tap-temperature water bath to 110F. Temper the yogurt with 1 cup of the warm milk, and mix until combined. Add it back into the rest of the milk. 

You'll need to keep the milk at 110F for 10-12 hours. Many people use an oven with the light on. I found a low-temperature oven on Woot for some added control. Or search Ebay for "yogurt maker." Now you've got traditional yogurt. 

Put a colander lined with doubled-up cheesecloth or muslin over a bowl to catch the sour whey, and strain the yogurt for a few hours in the fridge. Voila! Save a cup of the white gold to use for your next batch.

W Blake Gray
W Blake Gray

Brian, if we had a Comment of the Week award, you would win it. Thank you.

Brian
Brian

And if you're really cheap (guilty), you can make your own for the cost of a gallon of milk and some cheesecloth.

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