In tonight’s episode of The Newsroom, Will McAvoy — in a throwaway joke — asked (or at least started to ask) why greek yogurt suddenly got so popular in the United States, and that’s the kind of question that fascinates me (although, I’m also trying to figure out the real-life inspiration for Neil’s season-long plotline, too). But as someone who had never had Greek yogurt in my life until a few years ago, I was also curious: Why did greek Yogurt become so popular all of a sudden?
In 2006, greek Yogurt was a $60 million industry in the United States. By 2011, it was a $1.5 billion industry. Why the sudden uptick?
The leading theory suggest that it had to do with rich, white women in coastal cities — especially in the Northeast — who believe Greek yogurt is more natural, simpler, and frou-frou-y than regular yogurt. Greek yogurt is also somewhat better for you than traditional yogurt, in that it is higher in protein, has less sugar, and makes you feel more full (although, the fat content is very high, which makes is attractive to low carb eaters).
Interestingly, Chobani initially led the way for Greek yogurt, and in the beginning, it was the kind of thing rich, white women bought in a grocery store like Whole Foods, but ultimately, it became so popular that Whole Foods stopped carrying it because Whole Foods, as many of you know, does not stock mainstream food items (they only stock groceries that can be marked up exponentially and make you feel better about paying more). Chobani is now for the plebes.
In short: The rise in popularity of Greek yogurt, like the rise in popularity of Priuses, is due to conspicuous consumption: People spend twice as much for Greek yogurt as regular yogurt because it gives them status.