Unfortunately, it’s not all Greek to me.

Good yogurt is important to me (it’s my Slavic genes; I can’t help it), and if there are any readers from India here, y’all know how important it is too.  I don’t know if any of you out there buy Fage (pronounced Fa’-yeh) Greek yogurt.  It’s available at the Honest Weight Food Co-op, and the Delmar Hannaford.  It’s probably available at Price-Chopper too but I wouldn’t know because I don’t shop there.  We’ve been buying it for a couple of years now and we really enjoy the stuff.  It sure beats the slimy varieties like Crowley, Yoplait, and Dannon.  It’s creamier, thicker, and more flavorful.  The only thing I didn’t like about it was that it was imported from Greece.  I mean, how many perfectly good cows and dairy farms (not to mention thousands of miles of sea) did this stuff fly over to get here?  What a staggering waste of resources to fly a little carton of yogurt halfway around the world to get to my desk at lunchtime.  This was particularly bad considering all the excellent local dairies we have right here in Upstate NY.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not ready to sign up for the 100-mile diet or anything, but buying local just seems like a good idea (but is it always a good idea?).  I was bummed that I could no longer justify buying my everyday yogurt from Greece, so I was pleased to discover Fage had started producing the stuff locally in May 2008 (in Johnstown, NY).  My dilemma was solved; or so I thought. 

One day, while at lunch, I noticed my usually-excellent Fage tasted a bit off.  It was chalky, mealy and way too sour; it lacked the great flavor to which I had grown accustomed.  I checked the packaging for the expiration date and it still had 7 days, so then I looked at where it was manufactured– it was manufactured in the USA.  Could it be that the American version was worse than the Greek version?  Why would it be?  The ingredients are milk, cream, and active yogurt cultures.  Cows are cows, right? 

A quick Google search confirmed that I was not the first person to notice the discrepancy between the two production sites; see this discussion thread, and this one.  There is a lot of speculation on these threads about why the quality is worse, but everyone pretty much agrees that the quality has suffered in the move to the US.  Interestingly though, the price of the product has not dropped with production having moved to the USA.  I recently did a side-by-side taste test of the two products and I again found a difference.  The US-made product was mealy and sour and lacked the smoothness and rich flavor of its Greek-made counterpart.  The US-made product had large air bubbles in it too, and the texture is visibly coarser and grainier.  Have a look:

 

I don’t know if this is a problem due to plant start-up in the US, but if so, I would not want to trade positions with the quality manager at the Johnstown plant when his annual review comes around.  Fage has stumbled, big-time, and lost quite a bit of brand equity in the process.  We bought some Oikos brand Greek yogurt, but I haven’t tried it yet. 

This is an excellent opportunity for any yogurt manufacturer to make a superior product and win my business (and apparently many others too).  If you know of any manufacturers who make a more consistent product, let me know because I am looking to switch.  My next post will discuss another essential ingredient for surviving Siberian winters– kapusta.

I kid; I’ll spare you.

Cati has been doing a lot of reading to prepare for our little-one’s arrival in September.  I, on the other hand, learned everything I need to know about fatherhood from music.  If we have a boy, I do this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M89c3hWx3RQ

and if it’s a girl, this:

What could possibly go wrong?  [wink]

5 Responses to “Unfortunately, it’s not all Greek to me.”

  1. Jenn says:

    Argyle Cheese Factory (from Washington County) makes a nice Greek yogurt. Find it at the Troy Waterfront Farmers Market.

  2. alex|dimitri says:

    Jenn,
    I will check it out. Thanks for the tip.

  3. greek girl says:

    sorry, my comment is not for this post but an earlier one about the Albany Greek Festival at St. Sophia’s.

    first it has always been the “grecian” festival.
    second you said “At the Albany Greek Festival, much of the food is catered by Greek-food vendors.” that is incorrect. the food is all made by parishioners and the booths are staffed by parishioners.

    i would have left this as a comment to that post, but you had turned off the comment option.

  4. alex|dimitri says:

    Dear Greek Girl,
    Thanks for commenting and correcting my errors. I would hate to misinform my readers (all 4 of them) so I made some changes to the post. Have a look:

    http://www.alexandcati.com/?p=776

    I have also fired several members of the fact-checking staff for their oversights.

    Also, if parishioners make the food, where do they get the vertical rotisseries for the gyros? That is why I assumed vendors were involved.

    All comment fields time out after 30 days from the post date. It helps control comment spam.

  5. Michelle says:

    Four Brother’s Cheese has amazing greek yogurt. I believe it is made with goats milk, but I could be wrong. They are at a few farmer’s markets in the area that I know of. Troy on Wed., Crossings on Sat. and I think the Warehouse on Learned St. on the weekends.