The revival of The Age of Yogurt
If you are of a certain age, there’s something about yogurt that you probably can’t get out of your head. Remember those Dannon ads from the 1970s? The ones with Soviet octogenarians splitting wood, tending fields and 89-year old Bagrat Tapagua with his smiling mother and a voiceover saying, “In Soviet Georgia, there are two curious things about the people. A large part of their diet is yogurt, and a large number of them live past 100.”
Oh boy, that was all you needed to tell the meat eaters of America. Eat yogurt and live to be 100? Excellent, where do I sign up? This blobby concoction with fruit on the bottom was superfood. Or at least what passed for superfood in 1975. Demand for yogurt soared. Dannon became a household name and the yogurt business really took off. But this is America, practically the birthplace of cyclical food fads. And even these days, when we really should know better, we are notorious for rationalizing why we eat the junk we do.
But even pre-Internet, before we all had a universe of information at our fingertips to help us know better, we had our grandmothers. Grandma always had the answers, right? Grandma read ingredient labels, clipped articles in Readers Digest and just knew what needed to be known. And what did grandma have to say about this newfangled hippie goop? That yogurt was just a petri dish of sour milk and live bacteria (or as Grammie called it, “bugs”) acting as a catalyst to make it “active.” Yummy.
Well, to nobody’s surprise sales eventually plateaued. Yogurt was slowly consigned to a sliver of your grocery store next to the cottage cheese, living a lonely existence mostly as something only people on a diet would eat because ice cream wasn’t an option.
Recently though, something has changed. Yogurt has become a big-time thing again. Maybe it started when companies created yogurt for kids and babies, putting it into tubes for convenience and pitching it as a source of non-meat nutrition, but in 2018 yogurt choices can’t just be plain or with fruit on the bottom. This is the 21st century and aren’t we more sophisticated? For example, nobody just buys toothpaste anymore; we curate our dental hygiene selections from a myriad of options. So too with yogurt. Have you looked recently at what yogurt is available just in Connecticut? If not, let me tell you some of what I found when I looked.
In Greenwich stores, you can buy yogurt from among many places such as France, Italy, Greece, Colorado, the Hudson Valley and Iceland. You can get it made with whole milk, low-fat milk, no milk, cashew milk, almond, goat or soy milk. It can be drinkable, squeezable, coldpressed, probiotic, proteininfused, Greek style, (but not necessarily from Greece) and made for babies or seniors. Your fruit, nuts, cookies or whatever can be pre-mixed, on the side, on the lid or in a sidecar. Phew.
It’s no wonder that during my time looking at the yogurt section I came across many shoppers who just stood and stared at the selections. I mean transfixed, with no idea how to choose one among all the options. I’m pretty sure most ended up choosing their cultured cow juice the way most people buy wine. They know they don’t want the cheapest and they know they can’t taste the difference between the most expensive and the stuff in the middle. So they buy the one with the most interesting label.
So what does our current fascination with this artisanal lactose soup have to say about us at this moment in time? I don’t know, but it does mean something. Obviously yogurt’s not just a kid thing or a diet thing, and if you actually read the nutrition labels you’ll know it’s not really a superfood thing either. In a way, maybe it’s a reflection of who we are. We like what we like, but we’ll like it even more when it looks fancy. And of course, when marketed properly. Those Soviet Georgians for example, really did like their yogurt ... but ironically, mostly as a sunscreen and burn cream, even more than as food.
Yogurt is seen on display at a grocery store.