The richness - and riches - of yogurt

The popularity of Greek-style and Icelandic-style yogurts is changing the culture of yogurt consumption in the U.S.
CBS News

(CBS News) Some Old World foods are as near as your neighborhood grocery store. Serena Altschul reports:

New York City has always taken pride in its culture. So it's only fitting that at a trendy new spot in Soho, the cultures are alive and active. It IS a yogurt shop, after all.

That's right, yogurt - fermented milk - is now center-stage in one of Manhattan's chicest neighborhoods.

"The goal of this cafe was really to show the possibilities of yogurt," said John Heath, who heads innovation at Chobani.

He says the yogurt bar puts a brand new face on an age-old product.

He said the bestseller at Chobani's yogurt bar on Prince Street is the pistachio with chocolate and orange: "People absolutely love that one."

It's a far cry from the supermarket brands you may know better. Thousands of years ago, nomads from Asia are thought to have first discovered yogurt. Today, Chobani's chefs say they're discovering it all over again, with "yogurt creations" like a chocolate-orange concoction.

But there's no need for chocolate in THIS unlikely savory combo: "Here we have some cucumber, some olive oil, a little bit of salt, and just pure, simple yogurt," Heath explained.

"This is kind of an eye-opener, I think, for people; this is really a big departure from the traditional yogurt experience," said Altschul.


At the heart of every recipe is Chobani yogurt - a Greek yogurt, strained to remove whey and water. The result is something far denser than traditional yogurts.

"It's thicker, it's creamy. It has a great texture," said Heath.

And from richness, comes riches: Chobani, just five years on your grocery shelves, is now the best-selling yogurt brand in America.

It's at the forefront of an even bigger culture shift: Greek yogurt, once a small fraction of the market, will top $1 billion in U.S. sales this year.

"It's very high in protein, it has less sugar, and companies have made it absolutely delicious," said Cornell dairy specialist Tristan Zuber. "So that appeals to American consumers right now. They want something that's healthier."

And it's very healthy for the New York state economy, said Zuber. Upstate New York is now home to all the major Greek brands.

For local dairy farmers, you might just call it a cash cow.