Yogurt? A whole lot of people now “think Greek” for a whole lot of reasons. Wegmans Food Markets has embraced the trend by introducing its own line of authentic Greek yogurt, now found in the dairy case at all Wegmans stores. The six-ounce containers come in six varieties: Plain, Honey, Vanilla, Blueberry, Strawberry and Peach. Sold under the “Food You Feel Good About” banner, they have no artificial sweeteners, colors, flavors, preservatives or thickeners.
“We’ve been working a couple of years on creating an authentic Greek yogurt,” said Wegmans Category Merchant Joe LoMaglio, who oversaw the process. “We strain the yogurt for that thick, creamy texture, just as Mediterranean and Middle Eastern countries have done for centuries. Not all Greek yogurts are strained like ours. We’re proud of what we came up with and we were eager to find out what others thought. We asked some customers who buy Greek yogurt if they’d like to compare brands in a blind taste test. The majority of tasters picked the Wegmans Greek Yogurt as their favorite over a leading national brand.
“To make yogurt, beneficial bacteria are placed in milk to convert some of milk’s natural sugar (lactose) into lactic acid, turning the milk into a soft solid with a tangy taste. Making Greek yogurt takes an additional step. It’s strained to remove more liquid (whey), leaving the finished product with a higher concentration of milk solids. Compared to other kinds of yogurt, Greek yogurt has a thicker texture, is higher in protein, and is lower in carbohydrates.
Greek yogurt has speed-walked its way to a level of popularity almost unimaginable a few years ago. An initial boost came from celebrity fans like Oprah Winfrey and Dr. Mehmet Oz. Then regular folks began talking it up on Facebook, Twitter, and You Tube. The trend has blossomed and Greek yogurt has become the fastest growing style of yogurt at Wegmans, too.
That’s a big shift, says Wegmans Corporate Nutrition and Product Labeling Manager Jane Andrews, M.S., R.D., but there’s some nutrition logic behind it: “Because Greek yogurt is higher in milk protein and lower in carbs than other yogurts, it’s a standout choice for weight-conscious people who want a meal or snack that helps them feel fuller longer. You don’t get hungry so soon after a meal or snack and you’re less likely to overeat at the next meal.”
Its higher protein content also makes it a great choice for fitness buffs and athletes who want to add lean protein to their diets, she says. “There’s some evidence that milk protein may be especially helpful in rebuilding muscle tissue after a workout.”
Greek yogurt’s higher protein/lower carb profile makes a great choice for people with special dietary needs, such as diabetics who need to control their carb intake, or vegetarians looking for sources of high-quality protein.
And then there’s the guilt-free part of the story: Greek yogurt has a thick, creamy texture people love, and most varieties are fat free. “That may be a big part of its success,” Andrews says. “It tastes likes a rich, creamy treat, but it absolutely qualifies as a healthy choice, providing about one-third of an adult’s daily need for high-quality, lean protein.”