Labneh Cheese and the Savory Yogurt Revolution


At the beginning of the year every industry looks into its proverbial Magic 8 ball and decides which trends will be most important.       The Food industry is no different.   Last year we saw an even larger rise in consumption of Greek yogurts – with higher protein than our runny sweet Dannon and Yoplait types.   We even saw the introduction of skyrr, a Scandinavian high-protein yogurt, invade our dairy shelves in places like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s.   Both Greek and Scandinavian came in a variety of sweet flavors, honey, berries, and desserty.

Following along with the high-protein yogurt is a new trend for 2016 – the savory yogurt.   With this comes such high-protein versions that they almost cross between yogurt and cheese.   Enter Labneh cheese, a sibling of the high-protein Greek and Scandinavian yogurts.       Labneh cheese is a yogurt that has been strained to remove its whey.   What results is a relatively thick product.   At what viscosity does a high-protein yogurt actually become a cheese?   That question might have to be answered for us in 2016.

So, last year we were adding sweetness to savory – think candied bacon.  This year, expect the trend to be upside down.   We will be adding savory to sweet things.   Savory yogurt is tied to the trend for more Middle Eastern flavors.   Also part of this trend is the push for more healthy, vegetable-centric dining.

Labneh is an Arabic word, and is popular in the Levant and Arabian Peninsula, where it is eaten for breakfast in small balls, often drizzled with olive oil and herbs and eaten with pita.   In Iran, labneh and strained yogurt is used as dips and various appetizers with a whole host of ingredients.   Cucumbers, onions, shallots, fresh herbs (dill, spearmint, parsley, cilantro), spinach, walnuts, and garlic are some of the savories mixed with labneh.

We Americans have a love for dipping a la lunchables and small sized hummus packs.   We are also looking for snacks that have proteins, are customizable and take different shapes and sizes.   Savory labneh seems to fit this bill perfectly.

You will start to see savory yogurts with ingredients like beets, carrots, savory spices, herbs, and olive oils.     There may even be a sriracha labneh.     Instead of vanilla or fruit, you’ll be seeing tomato or pumpkin. Not only will we see this on our grocery shelves, it’s also predicted to infiltrate into the QSR or Fast Food market as well.     We may see it alongside a savory oatmeal with roasted red peppers and a poached egg on the menu of say a chain with golden arches.

I doubt that we’ll be wearing turbans and headscarves this year, but the flavors of the Middle East are definitely coming to America.


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