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The culture wars are heating up—and we’re not talking about the Directioners having a tiff with the Beliebers. These are clashes of the probiotic sort. Greek yogurt—the tangy, protein-packed, strained dairy product—has enjoyed a speedy rise in popularity in the last decade, jumping from one percent of the U.S. yogurt market in 2007 to 44 percent last year. In fact, 70 percent of all growth in the yogurt market can be attributed to Greek yogurt products alone (mainly from the brands Chobani and Fage). So it seems only natural that the Greek variety remains the belle of the probiotic ball—but also the dairy product most at risk of being dethroned.
This wouldn’t be the first time that Americans’ yogurt tastes have evolved. Yogurt was marketed as a treat in the 80s and 90s, with the proliferation of froyo and dessert-like flavors including piña colada, key lime pie, and strawberry cheesecake. The crazy growth in Greek yogurt consumption might even be explained as a backlash to these sugary, artificially flavored options (in addition to savvy marketing on the part of market-leader Chobani)—in which case, it worked! Today, we’re eating more Greek yogurt than ever before, with sales hitting more than $3 billion last year.
There are more opportunities, but also more competition, for new companies entering the yogurt market.
Greek yogurt has grown from a healthy snack to a cooking staple used in virtually any kind of dish, from breakfast to dessert. Meanwhile, studies continue to praise the health benefits associated with regularly consuming yogurt: It may decrease the likelihood of developing obesity, type 2 diabetes, and hypertension, and may increase memory recall and decrease stress levels ((Dairy intake and cognitive health in middle-aged South Australians. Crichton GE1, Murphy KJ, Bryan J. Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2010;19(2):161-71.)) ((Yogurt and dairy product consumption to prevent cardiometabolic diseases: epidemiologic and experimental studies. Astrup A. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2014 May;99(5 Suppl):1235S-42S)).
All of this means there are more opportunities, but also more competition, for new companies entering the yogurt market. These brands try to win over customers with “more exciting flavors, additional health benefits, and improved texture,” according to industry periodical The Dairy Reporter.
It's All Greek to Me: How to Choose the Best Yogurt
Walk down the dairy aisle at your local grocery store, and you’ll be met with a wide array of yogurt (and yogurt-alternative) options. There’s German quark (a sibling of cottage cheese), Indian dahi (used to cool spicy foods), goat’s milk yogurt (easier on the digestive tract), and dessert tofu (pleasing to the vegan set). If you’re thinking, “It’s all Greek to me!”, don’t worry: We’ve put together a handy graphic (see below) that compares the most popular alternatives to Greek yogurt.
Products trying to gain notariety in the yogurt aisle share a common strategy: capitalize on how they differ from or improve upon existing options, with much of the emphasis on unique taste and texture. Siggi’s Icelandic Skyr promotes its limited use of sugar and simple ingredients. Noosa, a brand of Australian yoghurt (yes, with an “h”), describes itself as “tangy, thick, [and] velvety.” With all of these yogurt options, consumers' taste buds can take a trip around the word—from the tangy to sweet, light to bold, and creamy to chalky.
Beyond these more subjective elements, we compared how alternatives to Greek yogurt measure up in terms of nutritional value—specifically when it comes to calories, fat, and protein. We'll leave the taste-testing up to you!