Food & Drink

The Evolution Of Yogurt In 11 Sad Snapshots

For better or worse, yogurt has come a long way over the years.

Yogurt, specifically the Greek variety, may be everywhere you turn today, but it wasn't always that way. These days, you can't escape the stuff if you try -- yogurt is everywhere, from our cereal to our baby food and even in our body wash!

We like yogurt as much as the next guy, but the yogurt craze has gotten a little out of hand. What happened to the simple health food we once knew well? Beloved by hippies, possibly eaten with granola, but never considered a dessert. As ubiquitous as yogurt is today, it's becoming more and more unrecognizable. (Need we remind you over the body wash?)

Here are 11 sad snapshots of yogurt's rise to fame and simultaneous departure from reality.

Cattle herders discovered, by chance or intention, yogurt for the first time 5,000 years ago.
Merten Snijders via Getty Images
While the exact origins of yogurt are unknown, according to the New York Times its routes go back 5,000 years. Live Science explains that a class of bacteria called L. Bulgaricus may have lived among plants -- like grass -- and "somehow found its way into dairy," perhaps by the udder of domestic milk-producing animals. Over the years, and centuries, yogurt become associated with health as it spread over the East.
Fast forward a couple thousand years, and Danone was founded in Barcelona.
Isaac Carasso founded Danone in Barcelona in 1919 to help treat children with intestinal disorders. It was the first industrial production of yogurt. In 1942, Carasso's son, Daniel, founded Dannon in the U.S.
Yogurt grew in popularity in the '60s and '70s as a health food across the United States.
Riou via Getty Images
But it was relegated as hippie food. Yogurt was for long-haired health nuts, to be eaten with granola. It was advertised as a health food (check out this hilarious Dannon commercial from 1977 propagating the health benefits of yogurt.) The yogurt of these days was thin and often mixed with fruit or some kind of fruit jam.
Yogurt began transitioning from a health food to a dessert, or at least a dessert-like snack.
Companies were interested in expanding sales, not in wellbeing, and added sugar was just the beginning to broaden the appeal. Starting in the '60s and getting progressively worse, yogurt went from being berry- or fruit-flavored to appearing in flavors like Dutch apple or vanilla. By the 2011, Yoplait was pushing the yogurt as dessert so hard that it aired a controversial ad, thought by many to promote eating disorders in woman. The ad was later pulled.
Frozen yogurt won Americans' hearts in the 1980s. Unlike real yogurt, which is regulated by the FDA, however, frozen yogurt can be pretty much anything (which means it can have a whole bunch of chemicals). No one really cared about that, though, when TCBY opened in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1981. It was so popular that it became the country's leading frozen yogurt brand by the 1990s.
Yogurt in a tube.
Yoplait introduced Go-Gurt in 1999, targeted to kids, and Dannon quickly counterd with Drinkables, as part of its Danimals line.
Tart frozen yogurt took over.
In 2005, Pinkberry opened its first store in the U.S., forever changing how people perceive frozen yogurt -- and presumably affecting their taste for the real stuff. RIP, TCBY. Stores like Pinkberry and Red Mango quickly assumed dominance on the frozen yogurt scene, leaving those that never did the "tart" thing to begin scrambling to introduce tart flavors.
Greek yogurt: the calm before the storm.
AP Images for Chobani
In the mid 2000s, Americans really started discovering Greek yogurt -- a kind of yogurt characterized by its thickness. Greek yogurt is strained to get rid of excess whey, leaving a thicker product with more protein. Unknown to many Americans, who may have been wooed by the supposedly Greek origin of the stuff, the strained yogurt we call Greek "is actually most closely associated with nearby parts of Eastern Europe and the Balkans, particularly Bulgaria." The word "yoğurt" is actually Turkish.
Greek yogurt exploded on the scene, appearing EVERYWHERE.
Greek yogurt completely obliterated all other yogurts in the span of a few short years. In 2007 it composed one percent of the yogurt market, and by 2013, it made up 36 percent. Chobani is responsible for roughly half of that 36 percent.
New York State debated the merits of yogurt as a state snack.
Yes, this happened. After a heated debate in the state senate, New York -- which is the country's leading state in yogurt production -- made yogurt the official state snack. And everyone wondered what the point was.
Go-Gurt at McDonald's
In the ultimate display of yogurt's transition from the health food we once knew it as, McDonald's will introduce Go-Gurt in Happy Meals on July 4. The End. Or at least we hope so.

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It all started in an innocent manner.

How We've Ruined Greek Yogurt