Greek yogurt, Turkish simit
Turkish entrepreneur Hamdi Ulukaya, who was dubbed the “Steve Jobs of yogurt,” by Forbes magazine and who is among the most successful 10 businesspersons in the U.S. will not be able to sell his Chobani brand yogurt in the United Kingdom.
According to the story that newspapers headlined as “Sales ban Chobani,” Ulukaya started selling his yogurt in the U.K.’s Tesco stores in 2012 with the inscription “Greek yogurt.” It is this phrase that a British high court objected. The court has found the Greek yogurt company Fage right, the one that sued Ulukaya.
I have to admit that I found it strange that Ulukaya, who emigrated from Elazığ to the U.S. and who now owns the $5.4 billion market valued Chobani brand, regardless of how successful an entrepreneur he is, that he has marketed Turkey’s national food “Greek yogurt” in the U.S.
The yogurt we produce twice a week at home (it is very easy to make) is really an indispensable part of our meals.
Which other country can consume 2.2 million tons of yogurt annually otherwise?
In his 300-page book, “Silivrim Kaymak,” journalist, writer and gourmet Artun Ünsal emphasized that our national food can be eaten alone, as well as incorporated into many dishes or put on top of them as a sauce. He says we are “a yogurt nation.”
Yogurt is the main ingredient in the making of many Turkish dishes: erişte, börek, soups, tarhana and sweets, Ünsal wrote, while it adds a distinguished flavor to dolma (stuffed vegetables) and mantı (a ravioli-like Turkish dish) when served with garlic.
He added, “A kind of a cold soup, or salad or appetizer, cacık [yogurt and cucumbers] is the ornament of Turkish meals.”
However, in an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Chobani’s marketing manager Peter McGuiness a few months ago said they were ready to introduce the “Greek tzatziki” to the consumers of the brand.
The root of the words “cacık” comes from the Persian “jaj,” which is an edible weed, according to the Nişanyan dictionary I just used to look up.
Yogurt is unquestionably a Turkish word.
Even though many dishes from the Caucasus to the Balkans are the product of a joint culture, there is only one country domineering in “marketing” strategy.
In the U.S., which was introduced to yogurt about 50 years ago, this product first appeared as Greek Yogurt and our hands are tied today.
As a matter of fact, while Ulukaya is explaining his success story, which is a course in Harvard, says Americans know yogurt as “Greek yogurt” and the market was formed; that he found a place in this market.
He claimed “Greek yogurt” was different because it was sweeter and juicier, but I don’t agree with him. If you add sugar to yogurt, it becomes sweet; if you add salt, it becomes salty. If you add water, it becomes juicier, or as our Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan calls it, becomes our national drink, “ayran.”
Actually, be it “Greek yogurt,” or “Greek Tzatziki,” the truth that lies behind all is this: The Turkish cuisine has not found the place it deserves in the world.
With the very well-known “Greek Cuisine” or “Italian Cuisine” in the U.S., you cannot, of course, market any Turkish cuisine, unfortunately… For this reason, Ulukaya produces “Greek Yogurt,” and those Turkish entrepreneurs in Germany open “Italian” restaurants.
However, I do have some good news for you. In the menu of the Chobani café, which has been opened in Soho, New York, alongside with “Greek Yogurt,” I have seen “Turkish simit, Turkish Lentil Soup” and even “Turkish Yogurt” being listed.