I’m not sure when I first started eating yogurt.
It didn’t really exist in the world I grew up in.
That was, of course, a simpler time. Cheese was American, or Velveeta, or something called “chivecheese” which came in little glass jars that turned into juice glasses once the “chivecheese” had been spread on Ritz crackers.
Maybe weird-balls, and ethnics, and foreigners ate it, but the closest we came to yogurt in my house was sour cream, which was mostly used when my mother made her award-winning (Worcester Telegram and Gazette) cucumber and dill salad.
Then, all of a sudden, ecce yogurt.
I ate Dannon.
Then I switched to Yoplait.
But Yoplait was too smooth, so I switched back to Dannon, where the fruit had more texture.
Then I became a Colombo fan. (Colombo was a local brand.)
Somewhere along the way, I adopted Stonyfield, with occasional side excursions into Wallaby and Oikos.
Then I discovered Chobani. Yowza! Or should I say Oopa – this Greek style yogurt is mighty fine. Can something that tastes this rich really have so few calories?
Then my sister introduced me to Fage.
Okay, I don’t like the little side tubs of fruit – a bit too precious to my liking, plus it’s hard to get all the fruit out without prying it out with your finger. (Maybe I have a banana-slicer idea: a purpose-built spoon to dig out all the fruit compote in a Fage container.) But, boy, is Fage delish. Even if I can never remember how Fage is pronounced. I sort of know it’s fa-yeh, but I want it to be fayge.
While I have certainly not been brand loyal, I have been pretty much flavor loyal. Whatever the brand, I’m a cherry, peach, and lemon (especially when I throw in my own blueberries) kind of gal.
So yea, yogurt!
Thus I was interested in a recent article on the subject that I saw in Business Week.
Chobani was the company featured in the article, and what a story they are:
Five years ago Chobani had almost no revenue. This year, the company will sell more than $1 billion worth of yogurt, says [Hamdi] Ulukaya, who’s the sole owner. Once a niche business, Greek yogurt now accounts for 36 percent of the $6.5 billion in total U.S. yogurt sales. (Source: Business Week.)
All’s not completely peachy on the Chobani front, however:
[Ulukaya’s] ex-wife is suing him for $1 billion, saying she helped fund Chobani and is entitled to at least 33 percent of the shares. (Ulukaya says the suit is meritless.)
Even if his wife does get what she’s looking for, Ulukaya’s is one of those great immigrant stories. He came over from Turkey twenty years ago to learn English, and decided to stay.
Ex-wife aside, thanks to the success of Greek-style yogurt, the yogurt biz is going well. And there’s no place it’s going weller than in Upstate New York. Which, amazingly, is the “Silicon Valley of Yogurt.”
Chobani has a massive plant in South Edmeston, which would be pretty smack dab in the middle of nowhere if it weren’t in the same county as Cooperstown, home of the Baseball Hall of Fame, the Cardiff Giant, and stuff to do with James Fenimore Cooper. At Chobani central, Chobani employees 1,300 workers churning out 12 million containers of pretty darned good yogurt a week. (Maybe I’ll trade in my Fage. At least I know how to pronounce Chobani.)
Fage also has a plant in Upstate. As does Siggi, an Icelandic brand I never buy because it’s way more expensive than anything else. (Maybe I’ll do a try and buy.) All told, there are seven yogurt producers in Upstate. I guess it helps to be close by to all those cows. (Not to be totally outdone, there are a half-dozen yogurt producers downstate, in NYC and Long Island.)
I’m a big fan of Upstate New York, so I’m delighted to see that the yogurt cluster is working for them.
It may not be high-tech, it may not be bio-science, it may not be totally knowledge-worker cool. But yogurt is tangible, useful, and edible.