When I’m on vacation I do my best to turn work off in my brain, but since I study food trends for a living that’s often hard to accomplish. Take for example a trip I recently took to Munich, Germany, where I met up with a friend who lives there. Since it was Oktoberfest we certainly had a few beers (maybe more than a few) and traditional Bavarian food, but he also introduced me to a dairy product in their grocery stores, which is not easily found in U.S. stores.
I told him I wanted to get Greek yogurt, but he insisted if I liked Greek yogurt I would definitely enjoy quark. I like to take the when-in-Rome attitude during my travels so I threw caution to the wind and purchased the plain-flavored version of the brand he recommended.
Since I enjoyed what I was eating I did a little online research to see what was so great about quark. First, quark is technically not yogurt but instead a curd cheese that has been smoothed, but the end result is a texture that nearly matches that of Greek yogurt. Quark also boasts health benefits that many manufacturers claim exceed what you’ll find with Greek yogurt. In Europe nutrition content labels show nutrient levels per 100 grams of the product versus per serving in the U.S., which allows consumers to compare across products regardless of the size. Protein levels per 100 grams of quark are claimed to be nearly twice that of Greek yogurt while having slightly less sodium. And just like with yogurt, quark can come in a variety of fat levels.
Quark is in limited distribution in the U.S so is it time to think about expanding its availability? A few years ago I might have said that yogurt is doing just fine and it’s growing organically. From the 1990s through 2012, consumption of yogurt in the U.S. nearly tripled, but the last few years have seen mostly stagnant consumption rates. And with nearly half of consumers telling us that they’re trying to get more protein in their diets, quark might be able to give them more bang for their buck.
I’ve also found that food and beverage innovations that attempt to evolve consumers’ behaviors versus revolutionize behaviors, have a greater chance of success since our consumption behaviors are habitual. Quark might be a new name and is not actually yogurt, but it is consumed the same way, tastes and looks similar, and wouldn’t ask consumers to make any drastic changes in their behaviors.
In my experience it was the perfect counterbalance to the beer, brats, fried food, and sweets I ate while celebrating Oktoberfest!