The mystery of Greek yogurt's sudden ubiquity isn't much of a mystery to me, as I glance from my computer to the recently discarded FAGE carton in my trash can. I know I'm not alone. Greek yogurt is a $1.5 billion business in the U.S. Indeed, asking why Americans enjoy a pleasantly sweet and sourish yogurt with an avocado's consistency and health benefits to boot seems to be an exercise in answering your own question.
The mystery isn't "why greek yogurt," but why now? Just five years ago, Greek yogurt was a $60 million market in the U.S. (Too sour! Too thick!) But sales have increased 2500%, accelerating through the Great Recession despite the fact that the "Greek" stuff (it's actually more Lebanese, but anyway) tends to be twice as expensive as normal yogurt. Still the two leading brands--Chobani and Fage--now account for nearly a seventh of the market, Margy Slattery reported this month for The New Republic. Greek yogurt sales have increased from 0.7% of the total industry in 2006 to 19% today.
NPR catches up to Hamdi Ulukaya, the founder of Chobani yogurt, and a descendant of a long line of dairy farmers in Turkey, who bought a Kraft Foods plant in upstate New York. Today Chobani is the number one seller of Greek yogurt in the country, with nearly 50% market share. "So far," Hansi Lo Wang writes, "Chobani and the Greek dairy company Fage are leading the pack of best-selling Greek yogurt brands, and conventional yogurt giants like Yoplait, owned by General Mills, and Dannon are now trying to play catch-up."