Greek yogurt, that tarter, thicker cousin of the standard cultured milk product, has just about reached the point in a fad food's life for its backlash. We've already seen the earliest buds of the coming hate from Mallory Ortberg on Eco Salon, who thinks the Greek yogurt thing happening right now is "awful": "Every company is selling their own version of Greek yogurt (it tastes the same, but thicker! Mmm) and touting the increased protein content ... Sorry, John Stamos, but I’m not buying it. Yogurt isn’t a naughty, sensual treat I get for being a woman, and you have dead eyes," she writes, referencing an Oikos commercial, in which Stamos sexily scoops yogurt into his mouth before getting punched in the face.
Right now, Ortberg stands out as a lone example of Greek yogurt hate. A Google of "Greek yogurt" brings up nothing negative -- just articles comparing it to regular yogurt or stuff about its health benefits. And searches for "Greek yogurt hate" and "Greek yogurt backlash" don't show too much besides some message board conversations. Even Gawker only has nice things to say about it, so far. But, we don't think Ortberg will be alone for long. With Greek yogurt's current standing in society, we expect she is just the first of many haters to come.
What makes us think this breakfast (or sometimes dessert) item is due for mass hate? It has attained a certain next-level of popularity that's calling out for a takedown. We do not like our foods to get too high and mighty, too omnipresent, too mass-marketed and overhyped, or too "foodie-preferred." Take bacon, for example. It had its moment. And then The Wall Street Journal burst that bubble. "It's time for chefs to find a new trick," scoffed the Journal's Katy McLaughlin, after finding the pig product in cupcakes. The cupcake was a thing for awhile, too. Until it wasn't. And, just to throw a super-food in there, let us not forget acai, the trajectory of which The New Yorker's John Colapinto outlined last year: "The fruit has followed a cycle of popularity befitting a teen-age pop star," he wrote. After a sudden surge in popularity because it came from Brazil, was purple, tasted yummy, was cool to know how to say, and was a super-food, came the lawsuits.
Really popular, or, shall we say trendy, foods can only be wholly beloved for so long. Eventually, a bunch of someones get sick of all the fawning and the takedowns start coming. The Internet loves to play contrarian because it likes to look like the taste-maker. And, what better way to do that then to hate on something everyone has developed a taste for? When something is very highly rated, it is all the more easy, and often appealing, to call it overrated—and frequently it is. Bacon, for example, is overrated, with foodies getting defensive at suggestions of a "bacon bubble." That doesn't mean it's not delicious.
It's hard to tell at what point in a food's popularity the hate starts coming in, but the timing of Ortberg's post makes sense considering Greek yogurt's status. It has gotten enough love to justify some rage. One year ago, The Atlantic's Derek Thompson noted the insane popularity of the dairy product, giving his take on why the food had gotten so big at this point in time. Since then, Greek yogurt has only expanded its hold on the market, going from a big business to a bigger one that New York state hopes to take and turn into its hallmark export. Governor Andrew Cuomo held a yogurt summit the other day as an "opportunity to strategize with industry leaders about how to help ensure that the fast-growing industry continues to prosper," according to The New York Times's Thomas Kaplan. This recent interest is in part because of the success of "market leader" Chobani, which has its operations in New Berlin, New York. New York <3's Greek yogurt so much the event was as official and fancy as a governor's inauguration, according to Kaplan.
Just being a successful business isn't what sets off a backlash, though it helps, particularly when the market appears saturated with talk of your product. There has to be something annoying at play. Bacon, for example, ended up in desserts it had no business being in. Its essence was put on condoms, the holiness of chocolate got tarnished with the fried stuff, and there are even bacon shaped Band-Aids. Acai came under fire for questionable health benefits. (The Better Business Bureau rated Internet acai marketers on the 2011 list of the top 10 scams and rip-offs, according to Colapinto.) Cupcakes started losing love when they were co-opted as the sugary snack of Sex and the City watchers. As late as the second movie, which came out in 2010, Carrie and Miranda eat the little cakes at Magnolia Bakery. Zooey Deschanel also took them on as a part of her twee persona. Then, they got their own reality show.
Greek yogurt could go the acai route, with its super-food status, which The Atlantic's Lindsay Abrams noted yesterday. She also gives us another reason to hate it: "all the cool kids are doing it." Things "all" cool people do can't stay cool for that long, according to the unbreakable laws of cool. If neither of those things are enough to send you down a path of yogurt hate, consider that yogurt bars are popping up in SoHo to sell various Greek yogurt concoctions. They sound like frozen yogurt places, except you don't get to choose your own toppings, and there's a certain amount of inherent foodie pretension: Creations come in both sweet and savory, like fig and walnut with a honey drizzle or cucumber and olive oil, and cost more than $5. That sort of thing didn't help bacon. If all else fails, the sexist marketing may do Greek yogurt in the same way it brought down its less-thick brethren.
Just because Greek yogurt is beloved now—maybe you're sitting near a cup, as you read this?—don't think people won't find reasons to turn on it. "A pleasantly sweet and sourish yogurt," as Thompson described it, can just as easily turn into a too-tart, too-thick, too-heavy, cringe-inducing gloppy, sloppy excuse for a meal. Maybe there are just too many brands to choose from; maybe it's that everybody's doing it, which means, soon, at least some people will want to eat something else. Abrams has already pointed out the not-so-healthy aspects of it, like fat content. We could also talk about the price. Greek yogurt costs around twice as much as the classics. Or, maybe Ortberg's screed against our culture's protein obsession will catch on. The food-haters will find reasons, they always do. We predict it will happen soon.