By Penny McLaren 2013-11-30 14:20:46
FOOD Focus Have you and your students discovered the protein-rich alternative that is steamrolling its way through the yogurt market? Initially, it only occupied a small section on dairy shelves in specialty grocery stores. But in an extraordinarily short time, it began claiming increased space at national supermarket chains, pushing aside more traditional product variations. That’s been the market trajectory of Greek yogurt. “It has become a phenomenon,” says Michael Neuwirth, senior director of public relations for Danone, the global food and beverage company that makes Oikos® Greek yogurt and Dannon® brand yogurts. Indeed, the speed of sales growth in the this product category is pretty remarkable. According to Neuwirth, only five years ago, Greek yogurt-labeled products represented less than 5% of the total yogurt market; today, they claim nearly half (48%) of total yogurt sales. Clearly some of Greek yogurt’s appeal is its higher protein content, which earns it a place on nutrition lists of good-for-you “superfoods.” But how and where did this variation originate in the first place? What makes it different from traditional commercial formulations? Can its popularity continue to grow? And, of course, what are the implications for school meal programs? Greek to Us French fries. German pancakes. English muffins. Danish pastry. Irish stew. Some of these culinary favorites have strayed far from their original heritage, but the name continues to provide an identifiable description. The same is true for Greek yogurt. Back in “the old days” in Greece, yogurt was made with milk from sheep and goats, not cows, and in small batches, seasonally, with the liquid (whey) being strained prior to serving. Eventually, cow’s milk began to be used, but the straining process continued. Actually, strained yogurt can be found in many parts of the world, from Greece to Turkey (the word “yogurt” is Turkish in origin) to the Middle East (labneh) to Iceland (skyr) to South Asia (dahi). The product name “Greek yogurt” was coined by a U.S. manufacturer with roots in Athens that used the term for its particular line of strained yogurt. The name stuck as the product category gained consumer popularity—and gained more manufacturers. Good for You What we know today as Greek yogurt in the United States is made using cow’s milk. It starts by following a traditional yogurt process. Milk is made into yogurt by heating and then adding active cultures that are healthy bacteria that also live in the human digestive system. The mixture is then allowed to ferment by sitting in a controlled environment for a particular period of time. At that point, it becomes traditional yogurt. An additional step, when the yogurt is strained, is a key element of so-called Greek yogurt. The yogurt is strained in a filter (historically either a cloth or paper bag) or uses another process (often a mechanical one) to remove the liquid whey. To offset the natural sour quality of yogurt, manufacturers have developed commercial varieties that are sweetened with fruit and fruit flavoring. The good news for kids (and for the school nutrition professionals who serve them) is that the straining process also concentrates the amount of protein in a serving. There’s more protein, ounce-for-ounce, in a cup of Greek yogurt than in a cup of traditional yogurt. “When you strain out the whey, you have a much thicker product,” explains Neuwirth, continuing, “The protein is concentrated, and the water volume is reduced. The resultant product features a thicker consistency, and it is perceived to be tarter” than conventional yogurt. Straining also leaves the yogurt with less lactose and sodium and fewer carbohydrates. In fact, most Greek yogurt contains roughly half the carbs as conventional products (depending on how they are sweetened), as well as half the sodium. Plus, the reduced lactose content could provide a K-12 foodservice advantage, considering that school cafeteria personnel seem to be contending with more parental claims of lactose intolerance among students. While Greek yogurt loses some of its calcium through straining, it remains a strong, concentrated source of calcium. Overall, Greek yogurt offers a very attractive nutrition profile to advocates seeking to curb obesity trends. And as with traditional yogurt brands, Greek yogurt product extensions range from plain to blended flavors to fruit on the bottom or packaged to mix and other variations to attract consumer interest. Light versions also have cropped up. According to Neuwirth, Dannon, for example, was the first to offer a “light” version at 80 calories per cup, in the company’s Light and Fit Greek line. He expects other varieties to gain popularity. What’s Not So Good Surprisingly, given all the nutrition it offers, Greek yogurt is not without its detractors. But negativity is less about the product than the byproduct. There are those concerned that the skyrocketing popularity of Greek yogurt is leaving manufacturers with an excess of whey to discard. It takes about one cup of milk to make one cup of traditional yogurt. But it takes an estimated three cups of milk to make one cup of strained yogurt, leaving behind greater volumes of whey. There also are brands of Greek yogurts that are made using thickeners (such as cornstarch, milk protein concentrate or other food grade agents) to achieve a thicker product and increase the protein content without taking the traditional straining step. Some products even feature added cheese whey. All of these are being branded as “Greek yogurts.” Is that “cheating”? Should consumers be clued into the variations? Although the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) established properties for yogurt in 1981, at this time, there are no similar federal standards to specifically define Greek yogurt. As a result, some of those companies that use the manufacturing process to make the strained yogurt are questioning whether non-strained yogurts can and should be considered Greek yogurts. But Danone’s Neuwirth maintains that “there is no initiative to create [such standards].” Is There Kid Appeal? Despite a lack of federal standards to define the category, most products feature an extra tartness—and this is a quality that could have an impact on how children, usually more sensitive to flavors than adults, will drive market share. According to Neuwirth, kids make up an estimated 7% of the market for Greek yogurt products. Alyca Judge, K-12 senior marketing manager for General Mills, maker of strained Greek yogurts Yoplait® Greek and Yoplait Greek 100, echoes this assessment, noting that the Greek yogurt market for kids is still developing. “Even though Greek is the fastest-growing yogurt segment for consumption by adults, we’ve heard from several school nutrition professionals that it is still unknown [whether] students, especially at the elementary and middle school levels, will enjoy its taste and texture,” Judge says. “However, as more kids try Greek yogurt at home, we expect that its acceptability may increase over the long term.” Time will tell, but initial signs look good. Michael Vasquez, director of child nutrition for the Ysleta Independent School District in El Paso, Texas, says he has heard nothing but good things since his operation started putting Greek yogurt on the breakfast menu for most of Ysleta’s 60 schools. Greek yogurt has been served in the breakfast-in-the-classroom program twice a week since August, usually paired with graham crackers and fruit. When he asked for feedback from his managers about the acceptability of Greek yogurt among students, the response was “overwhelmingly positive,” Vasquez reports. “Students wanted it on the menu twice a week,” he says. “It is a very good product. Teachers like it, too. Staff say it is creamier than traditional yogurt, and it cuts nice when you spoon it,” he adds. Get Them to the Greek? The potential for Greek yogurt expansion in schools hasn’t gone unnoticed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Last summer, USDA launched a pilot program to test the possibility of making Greek yogurt available through the USDA Foods program. For its pilot, USDA used a competitive bid process to select Chobani to exclusively provide Greek yogurt products to schools in four states: Arizona, Idaho, New York and Tennessee. The goal, according to a USDA representative, is to test how its distribution chain works for the perishable product. USDA will be asking participating schools to provide feedback, particularly about receiving, storage and the ability to menu the item before the “use by” dates. USDA was expected to start assessing the test purchase results this winter; the earliest schools might see the product as a USDA Foods option would be SY 2014-15. Manufacturers are hoping the pilot yields strong enthusiasm from schools, as price is an undeniable barrier to menuing Greek yogurt in school meal programs. “Greek yogurt is considerably more expensive,” concedes Neuwirth, “costing about $1.20 per cup versus 60 to 70 cents per cup for traditional yogurt. Greek yogurt is nutrient-dense, but it comes at a higher price point.” (Indeed, the price differential is likely to ensure that traditional yogurt products continue to maintain a customer base across all segments. In fact, sales for traditional yogurt are said to be up overall, too, although not growing at the same exponential rate as Greek yogurt.) At least one manufacturer, Chobani, is advocating for changes in how USDA credits Greek yogurt in school meal patterns. According to Nicki Briggs, MS, RD, Chobani’s chief communications officer, “We hope that USDA will consider amending the meat/meat alternate crediting standards so that four ounces of strained Greek yogurt equals two meat/meat alternates, as opposed to one.” Making Greek yogurt more available in schools “can help diversify menus and supply the protein students need,” says Briggs. “Offering new and tasty food options in schools also encourages children to develop healthy, balanced eating habits early on.” Chobani has sponsored a website, www.gogreekinschool.com, designed to gain public attention and backing for boosting the presence of Greek yogurt in school meal programs. Add a Touch of Greek With many school nutrition programs placing a greater emphasis on scratch-prepared menu items, it’s helpful to note that Greek yogurt can work quite well as a substitute for other dairy or even non-dairy ingredients. It’s said to lend a creaminess to soups and baked goods (both for fillings and crust). It’s also considered a particularly natural substitute for sour cream and cream cheese. In general, using yogurt in place of other liquids in a recipe can add a tang of flavor and yield a nice, moist product. Chef Monica Coulter, MS, corporate chef for General Mills, has been directing some of her recipe development efforts toward using yogurt as an ingredient. When it comes to K-12 schools, steps in this area are somewhat tentative, she notes, explaining that most schools experimenting with yogurt as an ingredient are tending to do so only with parfait assembly recipes. But Coulter is enthusiastic about replacing certain high-fat ingredients (regular mayonnaise, sour cream, buttermilk and cream cheese) with Greek yogurt in a wide variety of recipe applications. “My favorite is creamy Italian dressing with yogurt,” Coulter says. “Simply mix yogurt with a commercially prepared Italian dressing; it boosts the nutrition profile, while reducing the fat content.” This can be a great alternative to high-fat ranch dips that kids love. To view a simple chart detailing appropriate Greek yogurt substitutions and amounts for recipe use, courtesy of Chobani, visit schoolnutrition.org/snmagazinebonuscontent. With a powerful nutrition profile, increased consumer popularity and an inherent flexibility for use in recipes, as well as being menued on its own, the escalating Greek yogurt trend isn’t showing any signs of slowing down, and it’s a good bet that kids in schools will be lining up to “Go Greek”! “Greek yogurt is here to stay,” predicts Danone’s Neuwirth. “I have no doubt that we will be making a lot of it.” Penny McLaren is a freelance writer in Vancouver, Wash., and a former editor of this publication. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Kitchen Wisdom says . . . Try This! BAKED FRENCH TOAST YIELD: 6 servings* PER SERVING: 310 cal., 17 g pro., 43 g carb., 2 g fiber, 8 g fat, 3 g sat. fat, 160 mg chol., 380 mg sod. INGREDIENTS Nonstick pan spray— as needed Challah bread, 3⁄4-in. thick*—6 slices Greek yogurt, vanilla—1 1⁄2 cups Milk, skim*—3⁄4 cup Eggs, large—4 Brown sugar, light—2 Tbsps. Cinnamon, ground—1 tsp. Vanilla extract—1 tsp. Salt—to taste DIRECTIONS 1. Spray a 9x13-in. baking dish with nonstick cooking spray and arrange the bread slices in one layer or slightly overlapped, as necessary. 2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the Greek yogurt, milk, eggs, brown sugar, cinnamon, vanilla extract and salt. Pour the mixture over the bread (a little less than ½ cup over each piece). Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. 3. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Bake the French toast until golden brown, 25-30 minutes. 4. Serve one slice. Garnish with fresh berries, as desired. Photo, recipe & recipe analysis: Chobani, www.chobani.com *Notes: If this recipe passes the test with a small number of students, adjust the quantities for batch preparation. The challah bread can be substituted with another egg-rich bread. Reduced-fat milk can be used as an alternate to skim, if desired. If serving as part of the reimbursable meal, adjust the serving size as necessary to meet current meal pattern requirements. KITCHEN WISDOM SAYS . . . • We used USDA Foods (commodity) frozen eggs, and they worked well in this recipe. • The use of challah made for inconsistent servings because of the braided top. Also, using a medium-firm bread that is not an egg bread may a better fit with new breakfast meal pattern requirements. • I served this dish with cinnamon apples, and it was a hit. • To incorporate regular vanilla yogurt, instead of Greek, reduce the amount of milk used by half. • This recipe was very easy to make, cook and serve. CHOCOLATE CHERRY FROYO SANDWICHES YIELD: 4 servings* PER SERVING: 100 cal., 3 g pro., 17 g carb., 0 g fiber, 2 g fat, 0 g sat. fat, 0 mg chol., 140 mg sod. INGREDIENTS Greek yogurt, black cherry*—5.3 ozs. Cookies, chocolate, medium-sized*—8 DIRECTIONS 1. Stir the Greek yogurt well with a spoon. Cover and place in the freezer, removing and stirring every 15 minutes until it reaches the consistency of soft-serve ice cream, for 30-45 minutes. 2. For each serving: Place 1 Tbsp. of the Greek yogurt on the bottom of one cookie. Top with a second cookie and squeeze gently. 3. Carefully wrap each cookie if desired for serving, and freeze 15 minutes prior to serving. Photo, recipe & recipe analysis: Betty Crocker, www.bettycrocker.com *Notes: Other Greek yogurt flavors and cookie types can be used for this recipe, so consider experimenting with mixing and matching. If this recipe passes the test with a small number of students, adjust the quantities for batch preparation. If serving as part of the reimbursable meal, make adjustments as necessary to meet current meal pattern requirements. KITCHEN WISDOM SAYS . . . • I could see these on an a la carte menu in middle or high school. • We thought the flavor was the best in a plain sugar cookie; the black cherry and raspberry yogurt flavor really comes through. • This is an easy recipe to make. The key to success is stirring it often enough to get a creamy texture and not allowing the yogurt to form small frozen chunks. • I would recommend using graham crackers instead of cookies. They would yield a more consistent product, look more like ice cream sandwiches and may credit as a grain. • I used snickerdoodle cookies with vanilla yogurt. • I think this is a recipe parents would embrace and that would be heavily requested to make at home. • It might work well to do some pre-prep and make these one day ahead of time and keep frozen overnight. MISS KITTY’S EGG SALAD SENSATION YIELD: 4 servings* INGREDIENTS Water—as needed Eggs, large—8 Greek yogurt, plain—1 cup Mustard, brown—1 tsp. Dill, dried—1⁄2 tsp. Sea salt—1⁄4 tsp. Pepper, black, freshly ground—1⁄4 tsp. Buns, whole-wheat—4 DIRECTIONS 1. Fill a saucepot with water and add the eggs. Cook over high heat until the water boils. Remove the pot from the heat and let the eggs sit in the water for 10 minutes. Drain the eggs and place them in a bowl of cool water. In the cool water, peel the shells off of the eggs. 2. In a large bowl, combine the eggs, Greek yogurt, mustard, dill, salt and pepper. Gently mash and stir the mixture until well combined. 3. For each serving: Place 1⁄2 cup of the egg salad on the bottom of each bun, then top with the other half of the bun and serve. Recipe: Eva Farley, age 8, South Dakota, published in Epicurious 2012 Healthy Lunchtime Challenge Cookbook, http://tinyurl.com/epicuriouscookbook12 *Notes: If this recipe passes the test with a small number of students, adjust the quantities for batch preparation and conduct a nutrient analysis. If serving as part of the reimbursable meal, adjust the serving size as appropriate to meet current meal pattern requirements. KITCHEN WISDOM SAYS . . . • I would suggest using less yogurt so the egg salad isn’t so soupy. • We found this recipe served closer to 6 servings. • We used USDA Foods (commodity) processed chopped, boiled, frozen eggs, as we do not have stoves. This also cut down on labor. • The mustard and dill help offset the tartness of the Greek yogurt. • I used chives instead of dill. I would consider not including either of these herbs, since students may not like “green things” in their food. Also, dill is not used in many recipes, so it would get stale quickly. • I added 1 tsp. of agave to the recipe to bring out the sweetness in the eggs. WHOLE-GRAIN GREEK YOGURT PANCAKES YIELD: 121 pancakes (#16 scoop or 2-oz. ladle) PER SERVING: 100 cal., 3 g pro., 17 g carb., 1 g fiber, 2 g fat, 1 g sat. fat, 0 mg chol., 220 mg sod. INGREDIENTS Oats, old-fashioned—15 ozs. or 4 cups Flax seeds—1 1⁄2 ozs. or 1⁄4 cup Greek yogurt, honey vanilla* —4 lbs. or 8 cups or 1 64-oz. pouch Water, cool (72°F)—5 lbs. or 10 cups Pancake mix, whole-grain—5 lbs. Pan spray or vegetable oil—as needed DIRECTIONS 1. Combine the oats and flax seeds in a food processor and blend for 30 seconds. 2. Scale the yogurt and water into a 10-qt. mixer bowl. Add the pancake mix, oats and seeds to the liquid mixture. 3. Mix on low speed with a paddle attachment for 30 seconds. Scrape the bowl with a rubber spatula and mix for another 30 seconds or until the batter is moistened. 4. Allow the batter to rest for 30 minutes to hydrate the grains before cooking the pancakes.* 5. Spray a griddle with pan spray or lightly brush with vegetable oil. Preheat to 375°F. 6. Deposit the pancake batter onto the preheated griddle using a #16 scoop or 2-oz. ladle. The batter will be thick. 7. Cook for about 2 minutes per side. If the pancakes are too thick, after the first turn, press lightly with the spatula to spread the batter more evenly. Photo, recipe & recipe analysis: General Mills Foodservice, www.generalmillsfoodservice.com *Notes: The batter can be made in advance and refrigerated. Keep covered until ready to use. If the batter becomes too thick, thin with additional water or yogurt to reach the desired consistency. If serving as part of the reimbursable meal, adjust the serving size as appropriate to meet current meal pattern requirements. BONUS WEB CONTENT How much traction is there to claims t h at the Greek yogurt manufacturing process is bad for the environment? When replacing buttermilk with Greek yogurt, is it a one-to-one substitution? And how can you use traditional yogurt to jazz up some of your favorite food s? Learn t he answers to all of these questions and view additional recipes by reading the online - exclusive content for this article at www.schoolnutrition.org/snmagazinebonuscontent. Recipes obtained from outside sources and published in School Nutrition have not been tested by the magazine or SNA in a school foodservice setting, except for certain “Kitchen Wisdom” selections, which are evaluated by a volunteer pool of operators. When available, nutrient analyses are provided by the recipe source. Required ingredients, preparation steps and nutrient content make some recipes more appropriate for catering applications or adult meals. Readers are encouraged to test recipes and calculate their own nutrition analyses and meal patterns before adding a recipe to school menus. In addition, SN recognizes that individual schools use varying documentation methods and preparation steps to comply with HACCP principles; we encourage you to add your own HACCP steps to these recipes.
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