The Greek Yogurt Fad

Stroll down the dairy aisle at your grocery store and you’ll see colorful stacks of Greek yogurt on the shelves, calling out for you to buy them. Although Greek yogurt has actually been around for many years, it has only recently surged in popularity. Now part of the healthy food craze, the trend is present in stores and households everywhere.

What’s “Greek” about Greek yogurt, anyway? The word “Greek” describes how the yogurt is produced. It is made using a traditional Greek technique of straining to remove the excess liquid whey, lactose, and sugar. This straining process is what captures all the essential protein, and gives Greek yogurt its appealing thick, creamy texture and high nutritional value.

Greek yogurt invades grocery shelves. Photo courtesy of NPR.

Greek yogurt has twice the amount of protein and half the amount of sugar per serving than regular yogurt. Likewise, you are more likely to feel more full after eating a cup of Greek yogurt than a cup of regular yogurt. Different brands have slight variations in their recipes, but you will usually find 18g of protein in every 6oz cup of Chobani, Fage, or Oikos (three leading brands).  Greek yogurt is even suitable for those who are lactose intolerant, since most of the lactose is removed in the straining process. In fact, it contains less than 5 percent of lactose in a serving.

Greek yogurt sales in the U.S. have skyrocketed within the past five years. Since Chobani introduced its first product in 2007, the company has been the leading U.S. seller of Greek yogurt. This prompted the growth of the Greek yogurt craze, and well as the industry itself. I can’t even remember the last time I purchased a normal yogurt. I hesitate to grab an old La Yogurt or YoCrunch off the shelf when I go grocery shopping, now that I have “gone Greek.”

Greek yogurt is not necessarily better than traditional yogurt in every way, however. For instance, regular yogurt has more calcium than Greek, since a lot of calcium is lost in the making of Greek yogurt. Also, the thickness of Greek yogurt, compared to regular yogurt, may not appeal to everyone. But both do have the essentials like probiotics, which boost the immune system and aid in digestion.

Like many who relish Greek yogurt, Shirley Qian ’17, a freshman in Macaulay at Hunter College, says, “It feels healthier…though, maybe a large part of its health factor is due to its marketing image.” She adds, “It tastes less sweet and more natural.” This is true, because Greek yogurt does not have additives like artificial sweeteners and thickeners such as modified corn starch. For this reason, many dietitians are strongly recommending Greek yogurt.

Dannon will begin selling a new brand of Greek yogurt parfaits at Starbucks cafes next year, before selling in supermarkets in 2015. The new yogurt line, “Evolution Fresh Inspired by Dannon,” is supposed to appear at Starbucks in the spring of 2014. Even Yoplait, a company known for its traditional yogurt, has jumped into the Greek yogurt industry.

Greek yogurt is undeniably healthy and its wide variety of flavors makes it all the more delicious—it seems that this fad is here to stay.

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