Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Greek Yogurt -- Creating an Empire in the Dairy Section

      Hello readers, it's been a while! I feel like I should give you an explanation of why I haven't posted in so long, but then again, I know you have more important things to do than read a bunch of excuses. Plus, although I won't beat myself up so hard as to add "who cares?", I acknowledge and embrace the very reliable fact that the world keeps turning without me posting. Thank God, I might add. I really don't want to be responsible for the planet's rotation. And speaking of the planet's rotation, it is from the other side of the planet that a new item is now in our face, meeting my definition of trend.
       Have you noticed Greek yogurt? A few weeks ago, the slightly fatter and flatter containers with brand names other than Yoplait and Dannon struck me as I visually scanned the dairy section. Chobani is the brand dominating my supermarket, although others have appeared recently, including Yoplait Greek and Dannon Greek. (We're such copycats.) By the way, this website, http://www.snack-girl.com/snack/yoplait-greek-yogurt-healthy/, will give you the skinny on Yoplait's and Dannon's me-too entries vs. the real Greek thing. (As you might guess, Greek stuff wins. The Greek weren't an empire for nothing.)

     I grabbed three Chobanis (they were three for $4) in lemon, pineapple and peach flavors, kind of excited. (It really doesn't take much.) Truth is, foreign foods intrigue me. They always appear to me more wholesome and tasty than so many of our over-processed U.S. foods. Further, Chobani triggered memories of a Nepal-inspired dinner I once attended, in which desert was a deliciously thick creamy yogurt that had been drained of water for two days.
     True to the marketing pitch, Chobani is thicker, creamier and not as sour, and allegedly has more protein because the whey is drained out, leaving more protein-packed milk solids. (I do feel more nourished and satisfied after a Chobani than after a Yoplait.) Further, when manufactured in Greece, Greek yogurt is made from goat milk. If  manufactured in U.S. -- I think this is what you'll find in most supermarkets -- Greek yogurt is made from good ol' cow's milk.
      But don't take it from me. Just this month, somebody launched a web site that is all about Greek yogurt. It's called, appropriately, www.whatisgreekyogurt.com. This other site, http://www.thepilot.com/news/2011/oct/23/welcome-greeks-bearing-gift/,  gives an interesting perspective on the U.S.' not-so-long relationship with yogurt, up to our current encounter with the original Greek product.
       And if you think that I am making too big a deal out of this Greek yogurt thing, General Mills, parent company of Yoplait, doesn't think so. The food giant earlier this year complained to the U.S. Trademark Trial and Appeal Board that the maker of Fage Total Greek Yogurt, by using the word "Total", was creating confusion with General Mills' Total cereal brand. (Seriously?) Last month, Fage astutely noted in a countercomplaint that General Mills is more concerned about Yoplait losing market share to Fage, than about consumers inability to tell their yogurt from their cereal. (Complaint details are here:
         By all accounts, consumers, including this writer, seem to have embraced Greek yogurt, along with other fancied-up foods now more readily available in supermarkets, such as artisanal cheeses and craft beers. Tasty, healthy, even exotic, without having to buy a plane ticket overseas. When it comes to food, that's our deal.