Posted: June 14, 2011
A decade ago, the domestic market for Greek yogurt, a thicker, more protein-laden version of traditional mass-market yogurt, barely existed. Within the past five years, however, it has exploded, and that’s been great news for New York’s dairy farmers. That’s because it can take three pounds of milk to make one pound of yogurt.
“It’s a milk-rich product,” said one industry spokeswoman.
Fage, which began flying its yogurt in from Greece in 1998, suspected the market was big enough to justify a plant in the United States. That plant opened in Johnstown, N.Y. in 2008. Meanwhile, another Greek-style yogurt plant, operated by Norwich-based Agro Farma, began producing Chobani Greek yogurt at a former Kraft Foods plant in South Edmeston, N.Y., in 2007.
Today, Chobani says it has become the best selling yogurt in the United States. Fage says it isn’t far behind, ranking fourth. The boom comes despite their steeper prices.
And dairy farmers are scrambling to meet demand.
“For the first time in over a decade, we have reason to be optimistic about dairy in the state of New York,” said Julie Suarez, director of public policy for the New York Farm Bureau.
Both companies, meanwhile, have plans to expand.
Production of yogurt in New York increased by 57 percent from 2004 to 2010, according to figures from the state Department of Agriculture and Markets. But the amount of milk used in manufacturing yogurt statewide quadrupled, rising from 149 million pounds in 2004 to 665 million pounds in 2010, reflecting the relative gains by Greek-style yogurt.
While Chobani labels its products “Greek yogurt,” Fage officials say their company, based in Athens, produces true Greek yogurt. Whether Greek or Greek style, the yogurt’s production is a boon for dairy farmers.
“Greek-style yogurt uses a lot of milk,” said Jessica Ziehm, spokeswoman for the state Department of Agriculture and Markets. “It uses three to four times the amount of milk that regular yogurt requires.”
And the result has been popular with consumers.
“What people are enjoying most about Greek yogurt is the flavor and the rich texture,” said Mona Golub, spokeswoman for Price Chopper supermarkets. But she said the health benefits also are a strong selling point.
It’s natural, with no artificial flavors or ingredients, and it has little or no fat or cholesterol. Referring to Chobani, she said the probiotics — beneficial bacteria that help digestion — are another attraction.
And Greek-style yogurts are typically low in sodium.
Full story here.