Yogurt: New York’s Place in History?
Our Fall 2015 Dairy Issue’s Liquid Assets column takes a close look at New York’s booming yogurt industry: how it began, the key players and what the future holds.
Yogurt is a healthy food that tastes great… Yogurt is also an important economic driver across our state; in fact New York is now the number one processor of yogurt in the country.
–NYS Senate bill, designating yogurt as the official state snack
This designation is a fitting recognition of the importance of this state’s yogurt industry, which has experienced tremendous growth over the past few years, making New York the top yogurt producer in the nation.
—NYS Governor Andrew Cuomo, signing the bill into law
“Tremendous growth” is a bit of an understatement. In 2009, New York State made a sharp upward turn on the line graph of yogurt production, and by 2012 we were producing nearly 700 million pounds compared to the 220 million pounds just three years earlier. We didn’t just pass California for first place, we blew their doors off. Much of this can be attributed to the Greek yogurt boom and new factories opening up across New York State. Counties in Western and Central New York contribute the biggest share of the state’s overall milk production and have seen the largest growth in production of any region in New York. In fact, the dramatic increase is starting to create concerns about whether we have the cows and the workers to keep pace with demand over the next five years—because without milk, there is no yogurt.
“Great yogurt starts at the farm,” says Nate Bubb, a category merchant for Wegmans, part of the team that makes all-things-yogurt happen for the company. “You can never improve milk once it leaves the farm.”
This is why the milk for Wegmans brand yogurt is collected, transported and turned into yogurt within 72 hours. It hits the shelves in all of the company’s stores throughout the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic not long after that. And Wegmans uses predominantly New York State milk. Chobani, siggi’s and the other yogurt producers in our state follow similar practices, serving the entire nation.
“For us, using local milk is very important. I made my first batch of yogurt in my New York City apartment,” says Siggi Hilmarsson, the man behind siggi’s Icelandic-style yogurt. “Currently the majority of our milk and manufacturing takes place in the Finger Lakes area of New York and we plan on keeping it that way as we grow.”
Read Matt Kelly‘s full story on NYS yogurt in our Fall 2015 Dairy Issue!
Photo by Robyn Wishna