Greek Yogurt Wars: The High-Tech Shortcuts vs. The Purists

Thick, tangy Greek yogurt has swept the market in the last few years with a few brands leading the charge, most notably Fage and Chobani. To create what they say is "authentic" Greek yogurt, these frontrunners use expensive (and patented) straining machines. But now other companies (those without straining machines) are attempting to replicate Greek yogurt with a few high-tech shortcuts in the form of corn or tapioca starch. And this has Greek yogurt purists up in arms.

As NPR's The Salt reports, to get into the Greek yogurt business, some companies hired food scientists like Erhan Yildiz, who is head of research on dairy products at the company Ingredion, to duplicate Greek yogurt. To do this, Yildiz and his colleagues "fingerprinted" traditional Greek yogurt, defined key attributes ("residual mouth coating," "meltaway" and "jiggle") and then replicated it with a few additives and tweaks:

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.

Although Yildiz didn't reveal which companies use the formulated version, NPR notes it's not too difficult to find out. Just look at the ingredients lists: original Greek yogurt doesn't have any thickeners or additives, while the formulated version contains "milk protein concentrate" or "cornstarch."

Of course, Greek yogurt purists call this high-tech yogurt a "cheap imitation," but since there's no legal definition of Greek yogurt, unfortunately their argument doesn't go far with the FDA.

What do you think? Will you be checking the ingredients list on your Greek yogurt from now on?

Read More: High Tech Shortcut to Greek Yogurt Leaves Purists Fuming at NPR's The Salt

Related: Solving a Mystery: Why Does Greek Yogurt Have Paper on Top?

(Image: Liv friis-larsen/Shutterstock)

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