Greek Yogurt Scandal: Your Favorite Yogurt Might Not Actually Be That Greek

There’s a scandal afoot in the breakfast world: additives in Greek yogurt. That’s right, your favorite tasty, protein-laden morning meal is at the center of a new debate about a new “high-tech” shortcut that allows manufacturers to get that thick, creamy quality of Greek yogurt without having to use traditional methods or ingredients.

Hamdi Ulukaya, the Turkish founder of Chobani (probably America’s most successful manufacturer of Greek yogurt) is adamantly against the use of the new technology and additives in Greek yogurt, which involves using milk protein and/or other starches like tapioca or corn. Chobani uses the traditional Turkish method of making yogurt, something he’s proud of:

” We want to make yogurt the way it was meant to be,” he says.

And for him, that doesn’t mean using additives in Greek yogurt to mimic the texture produced when the customary intensive straining is used. The new method of additives was engineered by another Turk, a man named Erhan Yildiz, who doesn’t see any problem with his more economical option (the machines used to produce Greek yogurt on a large scale are very costly, apparently, and the additives allow companies to manufacture Greek yogurt without investing in them).

Greek yogurt is one of the most popular products in the US right now. Its share of the yogurt market is up to 28%, up from 16% last year. Pretty much every health-minded person I know (aside from vegans, of course) is a fan of Greek yogurt, especially Chobani. It seems like every time I go to the grocery store I see a new brand of Greek yogurt. I usually stick with the store brand, as my personal fave, Fage, is kind of out of my price range. But the “high-tech” Greek yogurt is already out there on the shelves—although Erhan Yildiz can’t reveal which companies are producing it.

In fact, Yoplait greek yogurt is now the subject of a class action lawsuit, which alleges that the greek yogurt it sells actually isn’t even yogurt. That’s because of the milk protein in it. The Greek yogurt I have in my fridge right now, Giant brand strawberry, doesn’t have milk protein or any kind of starches, which are the ingredients Ulukaya is so fired up about. It does, however, contain locust bean gum, which is a thickening product.

If you’re concerned about the authenticity of your Greek yogurt (which, after writing this article, I have to admit I kind of am! I’d definitely rather eat something that’s close to the real thing, rather than an artificial stand-in, but that could just be me), your best bet is to read yogurt labels carefully and stick to Chobani, Fage, or other brands that don’t contain any thickening agents.

Photo: Shutterstock

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    • Emily

      Oh Fage…heavenly Fage.

    • LW

      The bigger problem is that the ‘greek style yoghurt has neither the taste, consistency, nor the nutritional profile of greek yoghurt.

    • Alana C

      My name is Alana, and I work on behalf of Olympus Dairy USA. Despite the rising controversy plaguing some of America’s top Greek yogurt producers regarding the use of artificial thickening agents, Olympus prides itself on knowing that it can ensure consistently high quality ingredients in every container of Authentic Greek Strained yogurt that is produced, which is why they produce yogurts with absolutely no artificial thickeners.

      As the only authentic Greek yogurt imported from Greece in the U.S. market, Olympus knows the importance of maintaining the integrity of traditional straining methods, which is essential to the Olympus Greek yogurt recipe that has been passed down for almost 80 years. Olympus Dairy milk suppliers take great care and responsibility to provide consumers with the best raw material for an authentically Greek yogurt experience.

    • Meghan Keane

      This weekend I was at a hotel buffet that offered “Vanilla Bulk Greek Yogurt.” I do not know what bulk yogurt is, but at least they were honest about it?

    • Mark

      Yogurt is TURKISH, all others saying othervise is acopy, Yogurt is made in Turkey more than 2000 years using Chobani Methot, and it is the best ever, very creamy and healthy, and it has thick layer of Butter on top light brown color is fantasic, Chobani is the closest to this product ,Turks controlled Greece more than 450 years and almost all Greek food products are actually Turkish, why Americans think they are Greek? bz Greeks markets Turkish products in US longer than the Turks, like Baklava, Kadayif,Tabuleh, Borek, Mussakka,Lokum,Sis Kebob,to name few are all Turkish

    • David

      Yogurt is Turkish, not Greek, google it and find out that most food Greeks claim to be theirs are Turkish and some Arabs.