Brands manufactured outside the Mediterranean country would have to drop the designation.

By Mike Pomranz
Updated August 17, 2017
Credit: Karisssa / Getty Images

The value of the American market for Greek yogurt—driven by well-known brands like Chobani—is estimated to be heading toward the $4 billion mark. And yet the vast majority of that yogurt has never actually been anywhere near Greece. (Chobani, for instance, is based in New York.) People understand that Greek yogurt is a style of yogurt – distinguished by its thicker consistency, a result of straining out whey. But now, like many geographic regions which have had their namesake products coopted, Greece is looking into reclaiming its yogurt.

Greece’s Ministry of Agriculture is setting up a 14 member team to investigate Greek yogurt production and eventually apply for the name “Greek yoghurt” (and “yogurt”—one letter won’t get you off the hook) to receive a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) and Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) with the European Union Register, according to Dairy Reporter. If the request is accepted, all “Greek yogurt” sold in the E.U. will have to actually come from Greece.

With a global market estimated at over $50 billion, 39 percent of which is in Europe, reclaiming the name “Greek yogurt” would be a pretty big deal for the Mediterranean nation. However, simply securing a PDO and PGI doesn’t mean that all Greek yogurt production will suddenly return to Greece. Brands could simply ax the word “Greek” from their labels. And the change wouldn’t even matter in the U.S.: Since America is outside of the E.U., the naming regulations wouldn’t apply on our shores.

Still, assuming authentic Greek yogurt actually carries some cachet (as opposed to consumers simply liking the style), reclaiming the name Greek yogurt could certainly bolster production and sales of yogurt legitimately produced in Greece. And even though the rules won’t apply here, Greece’s willingness to take action might at least get a few Americans to realize that their Chobani is technically “Greek-style New York yogurt.”