Heralded in recent years by foodies for its creamy taste and by nutritionists for its high protein content and utility in cutting fat content in mayonnaise-heavy recipes, Greek yogurt has become an "it" ingredient and popular snack.
Now, food giant Kraft is getting into it.
Marshall Hyzdu, brand manager for Kraft's Athenos line, cited the doubling of Greek yogurt sales every year for the last five — to more than 100 million pounds per year.
The market's biggest players in the United States include Fage and Chobani. There are also a variety of Greek-style yogurts that imitate the taste and texture but are made differently, Hyzdu said.
To stand out, Athenos is making only fat-free Greek yogurt, in tubs of plain and divided, single-serving containers with yogurt on one side, and strawberry, peach, blueberry or honey on the other. The Kraft products also are about half the price of the more established competition. The snack-sized containers will retail for $1.50, while the pounds of plain yogurt are $3.99.
A popular but relatively small brand in Kraft's portfolio, Athenos makes Mediterranean-style foods, including feta cheese, hummus and pita chips. Hyzdu said the brand has been working on Greek yogurt for some time, because it took a while to get it right. But he said there has been ample encouragement from the 85,000 Facebook fans, who have cheered at the news of a forthcoming Greek yogurt.
Athenos will begin distribution throughout California this month, in what Hyzdu calls "sort of a reverse manifest destiny."
The yogurt also will be available at Walmart stores, with a wider release coming early next year.