The Yogurt Aisle Is Getting Wild: Here Are 4 Tips for Navigating and Finding New Favorites

published May 4, 2015
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(Image credit: Niloo)

For years, the cereal aisle represented, to me at least, the bounty of the typical American grocery store. I mean, anyone who has lived outside the US for an extended period and then returns to our shores is often shocked at the sheer breadth and scope of offerings – the bright colors, the wide-ranging flavors, the smiling cartoon characters! Cereal was always the food we had in abundance more than any other.

Until now.

Now it’s yogurt.

If you walked into a grocery store 10 years ago and looked at the yogurt case, then closed your eyes and beamed yourself to 2015, you’d get dizzy. Offerings across the category have exploded. Greek yogurt has been the biggest growth driver by far, but even a casual foray through the dairy aisle reveals so much more variety-wise than was here a decade ago. We’ve got Icelandic skyr and grassfed yogurt; goat milk and sheep milk yogurt; yogurt made from almond, coconut, and soy milk; yogurt in tubes, pouches, and drops; yogurt that’s “whipped” and lactose-free; yogurt that’s topped with candy, or made from beets, or shaken with juice and sold in cartons. And I’ve hardly even started.

So folks like me (and perhaps you?) who love yogurt can get overwhelmed.

Here’s what I suggest:

1. Take stock.

Plan a foray to the yogurt aisle at your favorite supermarket on a day when things are quiet and you can afford a bit of study time. Look long and hard at a couple of options that appeal to you – from brands you know to brands whose names you’ve never seen before. Look beyond the savvy packaging (so pretty and shiny!) to the actual words on the label. What’s on offer? Is it even yogurt? (The juice referenced above is a “nonfat beverage” sweetened with fructose, sugar, juice concentrates, and a stevia derivative.) Take your time, and poke around.

2. Take heart.

Remember: Having more choices is generally better than having fewer, so don’t get overwhelmed; get savvy. If you’re health-conscious, look for products with few ingredients, avoid those with artificial additives, find a fat-content that suits your palate and dietary preferences, and be glad you have options. Among all the brightly colored cups, there’s some really amazing yogurt on that shelf. You just need to seek it out to find what you genuinely love.

3. Taste test.

Now I know this isn’t a farmers market or Costco, where you can walk around and sample everything in sight, but yogurt is a fairly affordable food item (as these things go), and I strongly encourage you to pop a few appealing varieties in your cart to take home and try. That’s really the only way you can compare the varying thicknesses, mouthfeels, flavors, sweetness levels, and general deliciousness quotient of this massive array of options.

Better yet? Invite a few friends over, set out a pile of spoons, and compare notes. People hold wine tasting parties and olive oil tasting parties and cheese tasting parties all the time, and those products are way more expensive than your average tub of yogurt. Yogurt tasting party for the win!

4. Step outside your comfort zone.

Innovation in the yogurt category means options can sometimes be wacky, but they can also sometimes be amazing. If you’ve always eaten blueberry yogurt, maybe it’s time you try coffee yogurt. If you always buy cow milk yogurt, go ahead and try sheep or goat milk yogurt. If you’ve always gone sweet, perhaps you’d like a more nuanced option, where the sugar supports rather than masks the naturally tart yogurt flavor. (We’ll be talking about my personal preference for plain yogurt later in this series.)

The point is, with the wide world of yogurt right there for the taking, you don’t need to remain a creature of habit.

Do tell me about your latest yogurt discoveries. Have you discovered anything new lately that has made you glad you tried it?

(Image credit: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

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