Here's the Scoop: March 21, 2012

Imported foods...from up north
Even if you’ve never been there, or aren’t entirely certain where it’s located on the map, Greece has played an influential role in your life recently.

Greece, you may have heard, has money problems. I’m not talking about issues like when I run into the store to grab a few freshly made rolls and have to go back to my car to scrounge around on the floor for stray quarters because I forgot my debit card. No, I mean serious money shortages — the kind that threaten the world’s economy with a domino-effect if these issues aren’t squared away.

The good news is there always seems to be some financial institution that’s willing to step in to help Greece before the money shortage makes the world implode. While such bailouts are welcome (financial collapses are always so messy), it seems like there must be a better solution to such problems. For instance: yogurt.

Old taste sensation
If you’re a yogurt eater, you know I’m referring to Greek-style. This phenomenon has taken the country by storm in recent years. If the thought of yogurt in general grosses you out, it’s unlikely you’ll be opting for the Greek version, despite its creamier consistency and reputation as a pretty healthy food. But, if you like old-fashioned yogurt, it’s a decent bet that Greek variety is a food choice you’ll enjoy — or probably already are feasting upon regularly.

I slowly began recognizing the steady rise in Greek yogurt popularity, but had never actually sampled any until a few weeks ago. It’s not Five Guys Burgers and Fries good, but for a slimy breakfast food chocked full of live bacterial cultures, it’s pretty tasty stuff. I’ve never been a huge fan of wolfing down quantities of bacteria-rich food (on purpose), but that all could change.

Close to home
As I have started to enjoy Greek yogurt on a regular basis, I wanted to learn a bit more about the product. I figured that its cost — sometimes double the price of the regular variety — was mostly due to the cost of importing. Turns out that’s not really the case, since New York State seems to be the Greek yogurt capital! Several of the largest Greek yogurt producers are located here and more are on the way. Business is booming, as they say.

A recent story in The New York Times reveals that the Greece-based Fage plant set up shop in upstate Johnstown to serve what was perceived as a large market of consumers of Greek descent residing in the NYC area. As happens sometimes, the product’s appeal went far beyond the intended customer group. The Greek yogurt boom was on.

The popularity of this yogurt is great news for New York’s farmers. On the flip side, the idea of people gorging on huge amounts of foods made with healthy ingredients can’t be welcomed by chemical companies. You know, the ones whose CEOs have the odd idea that food whipped up in test tubes is good for consumers — and even better for the company’s bottom line. I’m sure the idea of using only natural ingredients in food is all Greek to these corporate decision-makers.
— Brian Sweeney