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”?