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High-Tech Shortcut To Greek Yogurt Leaves Purists Fuming

Chobani Greek YogurtChobani Greek Yogurt (Photo credit: Janellie)

America's food companies are masters of technology. They massage tastes and textures to tickle our palates. They find ways to imitate expensive foods with cheaper ingredients.

And sometimes, that technological genius leads to controversy.

A case in point: Greek yogurt, one of the trendiest foods in the country right now — "the Jeremy Lin of food products," says the Los Angeles Times. Some yogurt companies are climbing onboard the Greek yogurt bandwagon with new ways to achieve that characteristically thick Greek yogurt texture. And traditional makers of Greek yogurt don't like it one bit.

 

Among the critics is Hamdi Ulukaya, founder of the company Chobani and perhaps the country's No. 1 cheerleader for Greek yogurt.

Ulukaya is Turkish, but Greece and Turkey share a common tradition of yogurt-making, as it turns out. Seven years ago, he founded Chobani. Today, it's America's biggest maker of Greek yogurt.

Ulukaya says the secret of his success is simplicity. "We want to make yogurt the way it was meant to be," he says. His yogurt, he says, is exactly the same as what his mother made by hand back home in Turkey.

Except that now, he's making 1 million pounds of it every day in a factory in upstate New York.

Hamdi Ulukaya, founder of the yogurt company Chobani, says making Greek yogurt using thickening agents is cheating.
Dan Charles/NPR

Hamdi Ulukaya, founder of the yogurt company Chobani, says making Greek yogurt using thickening agents is cheating.

He takes me to the factory, a jungle gym of stainless steel pipes and tanks and loud machinery. One room is full of machines that spin the yogurt and squeeze out the liquid to strain it.

Ulukaya treats these machines like trade secrets. He won't let me take a picture of them. They're a critical piece of his booming business, "and it's not easy to get them," he says. "It takes a year to get them. So you have to plan ahead in order to make it."

Which brings us to the problem facing the rest of the industry. Other companies have watched Greek yogurt take over nearly a quarter of the total yogurt market in just the past five years. They wanted to get into this profitable market segment, too, but they didn't have those machines.   More>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

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