06 September, 2008

Greek Yogurt CAGE MATCH!

My daughter Lynn has loved Greek-style yogurt for awhile now, ever since she discovered the Fage brand in a local natural-foods supermarket. Back then, it was the only Greek yogurt on the shelves, and Fage's US branch was an import business as they built brand identity among American consumers.

Fage has had enormous success here, and now makes yogurt for the US market in a shiny new facility in upstate New York - and along with their success has come competition. Lynn, along with my wife Maryanne, has tried other Greek yogurts - always coming back to Fage as her favorite. There are three widely-available Greek yogurts in our local supermarkets, so we decided to give them a head-to-head comparison test.

Note: This was not a "blind taste test" to determine which Greek yogurt is "best." This was a tasting to compare and contrast flavors and textures between the three, to explain why we like the ones we do, and to give you an idea of what to expect when you shop for a Greek yogurt.

To give a fair comparison, we needed identical types of yogurt. We chose plain non-fat (0% fat) yogurt for the tasting because that was the only style common to all three brands on the shelf at the supermarket.

Total 0% - Thick, smooth, and rich-tasting despite being a fat-free yogurt, Fage's texture is almost pudding-like. It's very milky-tasting with a strong yogurt taste. Characteristically sharp but not overly acidic, Fage's Greek yogurt is an excellent choice for snacks with jam or fruit stirred in, and it's thick enough to use as a substitute for sour cream in dips or dressings. This was our favorite of the three.

Fage's American website.

Oikos Organic Greek Yogurt - Thinner than Fage, with a consistency much closer to regular yogurt. Mild-tasting with subtle sour milk notes, Oikos is a good choice if you enjoy more standard commercial yogurts but want something with a little more body. Blends well with flavored syrups and jams.

Careful attention to the Oikos label will reveal that it is made by Stonyfield Farm, a big name in the yogurt business. When I visited Oikos' website, I found that the yogurt is made "in partnership" with Euphrates Inc., a business specializing in feta cheese and Greek yogurt production which also makes Chobani Greek yogurt, the other brand in this test (more about Euphrates and Chobani in a moment.)

Oikos Organic Greek Yogurt website.
Stonyfield Farm website.

Chobani Greek Yogurt - Very thick but with a coarser texture than the Fage, this brand also had the sharpest taste of the three. Aggressive yogurt flavor with a pronounced vinegary sourness; Chobani practically begs to be mixed with something to cut it's overpowering acidity. Though it was my daughter's least favorite brand, my wife likes Chobani with a couple spoonfuls of fruit jam or honey stirred in.

Chobani's story is interesting - it's made by Agro-Farma Inc. in New York state. Although the name sounds like it belongs to a huge factory-farming conglomerate, it's actually a small company closely tied to Euphrates Inc., a large New York State maker of feta cheese which established itself as an important supplier of high-quality feta to the food-service industry before turning it's eye on the consumer market. Euphrates got it's start in 1998 when a third-generation European cheesemaker decided that it would be more advantageous to start operations in the US than to try to import his family's product into the country. In 2005, Euphrates purchased a former yogurt-processing plant from Kraft and began production of Greek yogurt there. Today, they produce Chobani Greek yogurt, and as related above, also make Oikos Organic Yogurt in partnership with Stonyfield Farms.

Chobani Greek Yogurt's website (this is also Agro-Farma's website.)
Euphrates Inc. website
Euphrates focuses on top-notch Feta - an article from the 17 March 2006 issue of Retail Watch, a digest for cheese marketers.

Special thanks go to snackgirl, author of Second Rate Snacks, one of my new favorite blogs. I don't ordinarily do head-to-head comparisons of foods, but her format inspired me. Yogurt comparison was one of the suggestions in a comment on her blog and it seemed like a natural for my wife and daughter to help with because they each eat a dose of yogurt every single day. I hope that snackgirl takes the time to do a comparison also - I'd love to compare her impressions with ours. Now click on the link up there to her blog. You'll enjoy it (link will open in a new tab or window depending on your browser.)


Rowena said...

I don't see anything but Fage at the supermarkets, but I certainly would welcome different types of greek yogurt any day! We are yogurt fiends ourselves, eating plain, organic stuff from Trentino for breakfast but indulging in Fage on special occasions since they're more expensive. Great post!

Dave said...

We are Yogurt Eating Fiends at our house, and I think we'll be reviewing other brands as time goes on. Fage is a "treat yogurt" for us, too, because of the price.

Tina said...

Love the comparison! Chobani is my fav!