Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Siggi's Skyr: Worth Every Penny


Who would ever pay $2.69 for a few ounces of yogurt.
Fucking Whole Foods. Who do they think they are? $2.69 for yogurt.

A few weeks later ...

! Who would ever pay $2.69 for a few ounces of yogurt. Fuck. That must be good yogurt.

A few weeks later ...

! Fine, I'll try it. Just once. Just to try it.

Later that day ...

Damn, this yogurt is awesome!
I'll have to try all the flavor

Siggi's Skyr is a lesson in marketing and its power as well as damn delicious yogurt. I'll focus on the latter and leave the former to mass comm majors.

The Skinny on Skyr
Skyr is Icelandic yogurt. Typical to Icelandic cuisine, skyr is a lean protein source: low in calories and fat, but high in protein. Made from skim milk, live cultures, and rennet, skyr is simple and simply delicious. Agave nectar is the traditional skyr sweetener.

Adam Roberts of the Amateur Gourmet tells the story of Siggi, a financial analyst turned skyr-entrepreneur, and Siggi's Skyr after interviewing Siggi in his New York apartment and enjoying an evening of skyr smoothies and Icelandic schnapps. I encourage you to read the article on Amateur Gourmet, though I will include this tid-bit as encouragement to follow your yogurt dreams:

Eventually, I asked Siggi how he got into this business.

"I was working in finance and I wasn't very happy," he told me. "So I started making yogurt at home."

"Did your roommates think that was weird?"

"They did," he said, "Though they're used to me making a mess in the kitchen."

Unfortunately, Siggi's attempts to make skyr at home didn't really work. "The conditions weren't right," he explained. "You need a very specific temperature for the skyr to come together."

Eventually, Siggi had an opportunity to make skyr on a dairy farm upstate. "We went up there and got to work and before we knew it we had skyr. We made so much of it that when I came back I didn't know what to do with it all."

He gave it away to friends in jars and one of these friends gave it to someone at Murray's cheese who, in turn, gave it to the buyers there. "They tasted it and they loved it and eventually they got back to me and told me that if I wanted to produce my skyr, they would buy it."

And that's exactly what happened; Siggi was in business. First, he sold to Murray's and then soon Dean & Deluca and Eli's wanted it too. Finally, the big kahuna--Whole Foods--ordered Siggi's skyr too.

"Now you can get it at Whole Foods all along the east coast and west as far as Nebraska."

There are five flavors of Siggi's Skyr: plain, blueberry, pomegranate and passion fruit, orange and ginger, and pear and mint. This weekend, when I went to the Whole Foods (the only store in Chicago to carry Siggi's), I only found blueberry, pomegranate and passion fruit, and orange and ginger.

Bragðgóður: Icelandic for Tasty

The first thing that strikes you about Siggi's Skyr is the color. Usually blueberry yogurt is a swirl of royal blue and electric purple. Passion fruit a spectrum of coral to neon pink. I am afraid to think what Yoplait would do with ginger for color. Siggi's, on the other hand, is free of food coloring. The blueberry is a pleasant pinkish purple, the passion fruit is simply off-white, and the orange ginger has just a tint of canary color.

Artificial coloring isn't the only thing missing from Siggi's Skyr. Siggi's is sans aspartame, sucralose, high fructose corn syrup, gelatin, preservatives, and rBGH. The rennet Siggi uses is vegetable-based, so Siggi's is suitable for all vegetarians (except vegans).

started making skyr in the States because he found our yogurt to be too sweet. A natural, tasty, and subtle balance between the tang of yogurt and the sweetness of fruit and agave nectar is what makes Siggi's Skyr unique and enjoyable.

Ultimately, though, Siggi's Skyr is more about the tang of yogurt than the flavor of fruit. Siggi's is a yogurt-lover's yogurt, for those of us that appreciate the tart smack and thick yet soft texture of a glob of yogurt.

Yet, the richness and decadence of Siggi's make it appealing to the masses of more spontaneous and casual yogurt-eaters too. The pomegranate and passion fruit skyr is my recommendation for seekers of a "vanilla" yogurt experience.

Yogurt with Attitude

Of the three Siggi's Skyr types I tried, the orange ginger is the best in my book. Let me be clear, I am not a ginger aficionado. I am a yogurt aficionado. I know there are people that feel for ginger the way I feel for yogurt, but I am not one of them.

That said, what strikes me about the orange ginger skyr is its character. This is a yogurt with personality and charisma, if that is possible. You want to like this yogurt: not because it's pleasant or safe, but because it's distinctive and interesting. The scent compliments the taste perfectly, hinting at the balance between flavors that is the highlight of Siggi's Skyr.

And oh my goodness, the ginger! Ginger ain't my thing, but the chunks of ginger in Siggi's intrigued me; not huge, hulking chunks of ginger, but a smattering of little but visible specks. See:

What a treat! In the end, the stasis that Siggi creates with the spice of ginger, the citrus of orange, the succulence of agave, and the sour of yogurt is a masterpiece.

While orange ginger stands strongly on its own, I envision it as a base for fabulous creations like skyr smoothies with bananas and pineapple or a pita dip with chopped cilantro stirred in.

Experience Skyr for Yourself

The market for Siggi's Skyr is spreading in the States. Siggi's is available at fine food outlets throughout the state of New York like Zabar's and Dean and Deluca. On the East Coast and in the Midwest, Whole Foods is the only store to stock Siggi's. Whether Siggi's Skyr is available in Whole Foods on the West Coast is uncertain. (Finally, a reason for Californians to visit Chicago!)

Wherever you live, I hope you encounter Siggi's Skyr on your yogurt quest. Please share stories about this unique, tasty, and healthy treat with our readers!

P.S. Siggi is seeking summer yogurt interns in New York.


Will Wright said...

Scarlett -- This blog is going to be completely ridiculous... I can't wait to keep reading!

Oh, and I will definitely be getting some Skyr today at Whole Foods.

- Will

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Will!

We're happy to have you :)

Let me know what you think of skyr!

Giselle said...

gah! I'm sold! I'm totally gonna try this today :-P

Heather said...

When I went to Iceland I lived off of Skry. Two months ago, I saw it at Wholefoods and I almost creamed in my pants because I was sooo excited. Chocolate Banana is my fav. Scarlett, Bravo for finally giving yogurt the praise it deserves.

Anonymous said...

"Creamed in my pants" in a post about yoghurt. Way to end a conversation... Heather.