The Best Thing That Happened This Week: Just Say No-Gurt
How many kinds of fermented milk does this world really need?
We’ve been waiting for it for a while now, and this week, it arrived: the Great Yogurt Backlash. And we predict it is going to be FIERCE.
Do you like yogurt? We like yogurt. Almost every day, we eat a yogurt for lunch. Key lime and coconut are our favorite flavors. Almost every yogurt maker in America makes Key lime and/or coconut.
And that’s a problem. We’re so old that we remember when there wasn’t any yogurt. No yogurt at all! (Okay, no yogurt in America; the stuff dates back some 8,000 years.) Then, for a long time, there was one yogurt, Dannon, before the stuff got popular in the 1960s and ’70s with the rise of health food, a.k.a. “hippie food.” From those humble beginnings sprang an industry worth some $9 billion. The average American supermarket today carries 306 different kinds of yogurt. New non-dairy varieties are made from coconut milk, almond milk and oat milk. (Where are the teats on those little buggers?) You can buy squeezable yogurt for your baby. You can buy yogurt made in the fashion of Greece or Australia or Iceland or France or even Turkey. You can buy yogurt that’s lactose-free. You can buy yogurt that comes with “the crunchy candy-bar goodness of toffee pieces, peanut butter clusters, chocolate cookie pieces and roasted peanuts,” which—health food, yum!
And you know what? That just might be TOO MUCH YOGURT. When we approach the yogurt shelves at a supermarket, we sigh in exasperation. Too much choice, as retired Swarthmore psychology prof Barry Schwartz has said. We don’t need Mixed Berries and Açai Yogurt. (Hell, we can’t even say “Mixed Berries and Açai Yogurt.”) Or Cotton Candy Flavored Yogurt. Or Lemon Meringue Pie Yogurt. Nobody does! Which is why we’re so delighted to report that yogurt sales dropped by six percent last year, with trendy Greek yogurt sales down even more, by 11 percent. Chobani chief marketing officer Peter McGuinness knows just whom to blame for what the Wall Street Journal dubbed our collective “yogurt fatigue”: yogurt makers. “It’s self-inflicted,” he told the WSJ. And General Mills exec Jeff Harmening agrees that yogurt has grown confusing: “The shelf has become more difficult to shop.” Now we can anticipate the pruning of some of the excess in the category. We’re just saying: Don’t mess with the coconut or Key lime.