The yogurt section of the supermarket and the United Nations have a few things in common: a number of countries are represented, it serves an important purpose in the world, and it's delicious when you put granola in it. We're fairly certain all three of those apply.
For the record, regular yogurt is fermented milk that has had cultures added to it. But what’s the difference between that “regular” American yogurt and the Greek, Aussie, and Icelandic varieties you’ve become familiar with at the store? We spoke to the makers of each to find out.
Stonyfield knows all about yogurt: they're the top-selling organic yogurt brand in the country, and because of that, you've probably seen that cow staring back at you from inside your fridge when you were looking for a snack at 2am.
And while they built their brand on traditional yogurt, they've reacted to consumers' tastes shifting to a thicker yogurt, and responded by introducing Oh My Yog! late last year, which features a "cream top layer" and "honey-infused whole milk yogurt below." Sound familiar? So while the shelves are still filled with yogurts like Dannon and Stonyfield (of which Danone is a majority shareholder), even the yogurt you grew up on is trying to be more like the yogurt the rest of the world prefers.
What it is: Unstrained yogurt (milk + cultures) made with skim, 2%, or whole milk
How it's different from other yogurts: Unlike most strained yogurts on the shelf, there are a plethora of options for traditional yogurt with regards to the saturated-fat content
The consistency: "A smoother, creamier texture" than Greek yogurt
Popular brands: Stonyfield, Yoplait, Dannon
Skyr is the Icelandic word for yogurt, and it's much different than the yogurt you grew up with (unless you grew up in Iceland). And it's been around for quite some time -- the people of Iceland have been eating it "since the 9th century." There aren't that many major Icelandic yogurt producers in this country (three), and there's only one who makes it certified organic. We called up that guy, Smári, to talk to us about what makes Icelandic yogurt different. We regret not asking him if he knows Sigur Rós.
What it is: Strained yogurt (four cups of milk are strained to make one cup of Smári)
How it's different from other yogurts: Contains the "highest amount of protein of any yogurt in the US" (Smári has up to 20g in a single cup)
The consistency: Yogurt that's "creamier" and thicker than the Greek stuff
Popular brands: Smári, Siggi's, Skyr
According to a report from Bernstein in 2013, Greek yogurt makes up over 40% of the total yogurt market. It was only slightly above 20% in 2011. And it continues to grow in popularity. We corresponded with the good people at Chobani and learned that while they make Greek-style strained yogurt, their yogurt isn't physically shipped in from Greece. All of it is produced in the US of A, some at a plant in Twin Falls, Idaho that is the "world's largest yogurt manufacturing facility."
What it is: Strained yogurt (three cups of milk are strained to make one cup of Chobani)
How it's different from other yogurts: "Twice as much protein as regular, unstrained yogurt" (some brands have 15g of protein)
The consistency: Creamier than regular, strained yogurt, though not as thick as Icelandic yogurt
Popular brands: Chobani, FAGE, Oikos
To get the lowdown on Aussie-style yogurt, we spoke to one of the co-founders of noosa, Koel Thomae. Noosa licensed their recipe from an Australian family with a regional brand in her homeland, where it's primarily known as "gourmet yogurt," and produces it out of Colorado. Unlike Greek or Icelandic yogurt, noosa is not strained, so in that way it's similar to a traditional yogurt. But since it's made with whole milk, you get that "velvety, creamy texture" -- one that noosa improves on by infusing with honey. Though you could also get it plain, if you prefer to have all the joy sucked out of your life.
What it is: Unstrained yogurt using whole milk (this means milk + cultures; also, Wallaby makes a low-fat version)
How it's different from other yogurts: Infusing it with honey gives it a unique flavor profile, often contains more protein than traditional yogurt
The consistency: "Perfect intersection between traditional yogurt and Greek"
Popular brands: noosa, Yulu, Wallaby