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July 22nd, 2012

That’s Not Greek Yogurt

Hard not for me to link to NPR’s report on the trend of fake Greek yogurt, with Chobani shining light on this lousy practice.

In short: there are federal food guidelines for yogurt. There aren’t any for Greek yogurt. Chobani and Fage don’t use any additives in their yogurt, so the process to create Greek yogurt takes a longer time. In contrast, a few bigger names developed a way to essentially emulate Greek yogurt without the long process… and it’s still called Greek yogurt. NPR talks about Ingredion, a company specializing in food ingredient research. Their head of dairy research (who knew?) is Erhan Yildiz.

To duplicate the Greek yogurt, they started with regular yogurt, then added different versions of starch, obtained from corn or tapioca. As they tweaked the quality and quantity of added starch, they kept measuring those key attributes. “If you can measure something, you can manipulate it,” says Yildiz.

They arrived at a solution, a “formulated” Greek yogurt that Yildiz says comes pretty close to the original strained version. It’s on store shelves now, although Yildiz isn’t allowed to say exactly which yogurt manufacturers use his new ingredient.

But you can figure it out. During a recent visit to Safeway, I found that Fage’s plain Greek yogurt contained no added thickeners. Safeway’s Lucerne brand of Greek yogurt, however, contained milk protein concentrate (something that’s commonly obtained from the leftover whey at cheese factories) and organic cornstarch. Yoplait’s Greek yogurt also contained milk protein concentrate.

To me this is akin to the hubbub about redefining what chocolate was several years back. That never happened, but I sure see a lot more products touting their “chocolatey” flavor – which means it’s not actual chocolate. Maybe we can just call all of these fake Greek yogurts “Greeky”?

Posted in Food and Beverage, Technology

Maria July 23, 2012, 1:03 am

Interesting. I actually noticed that about Safeway’s yogurt recently when checking the label, but didn’t know that would make it only “Greeky” (nice) and not true Greek yogurt.

Just checked the tub of Kirkland (Costco) Greek yogurt in my fridge and it has no additives.

(Also reminds me of how Taco Bell’s burritos are “beefy” but not necessarily beef – and that whole debate from last year, was it?)

Paul July 23, 2012, 9:39 am

For the record, Trader Joe’s Greek Yogurt is really Greeky. Cornstarch is one of the ingredients.

And yes, the Taco Bell beef thing was just last year.

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