How Trendy Greek Yogurt Rebranded An Ancient Staple

Labna (strained yogurt) marketed today as "Greek yogurt."

Labna (strained yogurt) marketed today as “Greek yogurt.”

I’ve been exploring Mediterranean food for decades and written books about it, but only recently have discovered the phenomena of Greek yogurt, which was perplexingly unfamiliar.

I didn’t know what Greek yogurt was, a term that first surfaced quite recently. I consulted other Mediterranean food experts and they were baffled, too. So I figured that it was one of two things: yogurt from Greece or a slick marketing term devised by American food companies to sell yogurt as a health food. Well, it’s certainly the latter.

More importantly, I have figured out that what marketers call Greek yogurt is none other than what I’ve been writing about and eating for 40 years, that is labna (also lubny or labneh or labne), which is strained yogurt.

Labna is the Arabic term, and it was only in Middle Eastern markets that you could find strained yogurt until quite recently. It is also called strained yogurt, kefir cheese and yogurt cheese. I had to laugh. For those of us who write about Mediterranean food and who eat it, hearing someone talk about Greek yogurt was like listening to a little kid marvel over a jack-in-the-box. READ MORE

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