And the Food of the Decade (2000-2009) is…

Yogurt.

- Say who?

Harry Belzer.

- Who is Harry Belzer, and how did he come to this conclusion?

Mr. Belzer is a senior executive at NPD group, a market research group, who’s been following the food industry for decades:

“We started off with about 17% of all Americans eating yogurt in 2000, and we end the decade with something like 28% consuming yogurt on a regular basis,” he said. “No other category has seen that kind of increase in the absolute number of people using the product.” read more from the REFRESH blog…

Indeed, yogurt is a $4 billion industry with a substantial portion of supermarket dairy refrigerators dedicated to hundreds of varieties.

What you need to know:

Yogurt is healthy. This is largely based on the live & active “friendly” bacteria that help our intestines and keep us “regular”. While all yogurts have these probiotics, some are better at marketing their presence than others.In Europe, people have been enjoying the flavor and health benefits for centuries, but the US was relatively indifferent.

The problem with yogurt reaching mass market in America was its tart flavor. Not sweet enough. Food companies started to add fruit purees, sugar, colorings, and other goodies in order to make the products more appealing to American taste buds.

Oh, and a marketing blitz too.

Key marketing messages: Healthy, portion controlled, convenient, endless flavors, no cleanup.

Today yogurt enjoys a health halo status few foods reach. But most people who consume flavored brands regularly don’t notice the added junk that’s put in many products. Here’s an example of a strawberry yogurt from a leading brand:

Cultured Pasteurized Grade A Low Fat Milk, Sugar, Strawberries, Modified Corn Starch, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Nonfat Milk, Kosher Gelatin, Citric Acid, Tricalcium Phosphate, Natural Flavor, Pectin, Colored with Carmine, Vitamin A Acetate, Vitamin D3.

Who needs all that sugar and High Fructose Corn Syrup? Gelatin? corn starch?

Here’s what strawberry yogurt should contain:

Cultured Pasteurized Grade A Low Fat Milk, Strawberries, optionally – 1 tsp of sugar

What to do at the supermarket:

Buy PLAIN YOGURT. Not white yogurt that is lightly sweetened. Not Vanilla flavor. They’re all full of added sugar. Buy plain yogurt and sweeten it on your terms! Whether you add strawberries, a teaspoon of honey, or mix in some granola, you’ll be better off. Plus, plain yogurt can be purchased in bulk sizes, this providing an additional saving.

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  • Amanda

    but if you WANT it vanilla flavored, how do you do that?

  • Benny

    @Amanda

    Hi Amanda,
    You can add vanilla extract, or vanilla-sugar. It would not taste like the industrial “vanilla flavor” we’ve been used too, because vanilla is expansive and sugar isn’t, so we mostly get sugar instead of vanilla in those supposedly “vanilla flavored” yogurts.

    I tried adding pure vanilla extract to yogurt at home, and it tastes great!

  • http://www.psychiclunch.com Psychic Lunch

    @Amanda, I HIGHLY recommend SweetLeaf Vanilla Stevia (http://ow.ly/11Qvc) or any other stevia flavor from them. We use it all the time in our house. Benny is also right; just adding pure vanilla extract will do the trick.

    I would also recommend that people buy organic, whole milk yogurt instead of the low-fat brand (did anyone see Oprah yesterday?) because our bodies need the vitamins that the fat will help us absorb (among other reasons, like being less processed and not containing powdered milk, etc).

  • kelly

    When you buy plain yogurt, you not only get to control the sweets you put it in, but you can also use it in place of sour cream or in sauces, especially for greek and indian food. I personally love plain greek yogurt with some honey or fresh fruit. Greek yogurt has a slight cheese taste, and can be expensive. You can leave regular plain yogurt to strain for a few hours over a paper towel or cheese cloth to get the thick consistency that greek yogurt has, but without the price tag.

  • http://balancefood.blogspot.com Chou

    Don’t forget that marketers chose women and their discomfort with body-image as a key starting point in getting those sales numbers up.

    Hooray for plain yogurt!

  • Carol

    Too bad it’s getting harder to find plain yogurt (especially low-fat, which is richer and tastes better without tons of sugar than fat-free) in smaller containers (if at all). You often need to buy a quart or more, which will go bad before a single-yogurt-eater household can finish it. Time to dust off those ’70s/’80s-vintage yogurt makers?

  • http://www.yumkid.com Rashmi

    You can just make plain yogurt at home. It is very simple and easy and probably cheaper and environmentally friendly in the long run. You don’t need any fancy equipment, just a warm place in your home/kitchen where the milk can ferment. Check out this video — a quick simple way to make home made yogurt: http://yumkid.com/recipe-how-to-make-homemade-yogurt

  • Sacks76

    i use plain yogurt and different extracts or juice some ginger and carrots and mix it with the yogurt for a soup or depending on consistency, sandwich spread.