The summer is fading into the last wisps of warm wind, but there is still time to share one of my last ‘little stories’. These stories are my taste snapshots citing food culture differences between France (my adopted country) to America (my native country) caught during our summer at the Jersey Shore. This story is about the taste differences between French yogurt compared to American yogurt, the same brands of yogurts manufactured in two different countries that have two very different tastes. Wishing you a Bon Appétit!
If you missed the first story in this summer series, you can read it here: ‘Differences In Food Cultures: Why Can’t Parents Say No?’
Differences Between France and America: Yogurt Taste and Texture
Have you ever tasted real European French yogurt? I feel lucky to get a daily dose of my favorite French yogurt, and when I don’t have access to it over the summer in Les States, I miss it. (I miss corn on the cob and bagels when in France, so it all balances out, LOL). Seriously though, genuine French yogurt is Taste Heaven and is probably my ideal snack. Do you know a real yogurt when you have tasted one? (ahah ‘The Challenge’ is on!)
During our summers at the Jersey Shore, my mom stocks up the house with a yogurt supply from Costco (another ‘little story’ adventure) and fills the fridge (thanks mom!) with Activia brand, made by Dannon yogurts. Activa is a yogurt brand also widely available where we live in France.
One day this summer I just noticed it, like when a word is on the tip of your tongue and you focus on it but just cannot shout it out. In this case, it really was on my tongue. My Activia yogurt. I looked down at my yogurt cup and thought,
Oh, lá lá , this yogurt tastes weird (not bad, just weird). Why does American yogurt have this different texture? It looks different too.
And this got me on a mission: why does American yogurt, even the same brand that is sold in France, taste so different than the European versions?
What is the secret ingredient in French yogurt that makes them taste so delectable?
If you haven’t eaten European French yogurt, put it on your ‘foods to try list’ when you are in France.
Smooth, creamy, no added sugar (The only added sugar is a swirl of maple sugar that I put in), and high in fat. (This yogurt has 9 grams of fat for 150 grams of yogurt -which makes it a high-fat yogurt).
I studied the nutrition and food ingredient labels for the same yogurt brands sold in France to those sold in America: Dannon Activia and Yoplait. Hands down the French yogurts have more fat per serving.
Fat is one key ingredient in food that helps flavor travel and satisfies mouth satisfaction. It is this fat, used as a higher dose in French yogurts that give that real creamy, less industrialized mouth-feel compared to American yogurts. With lower-fat yogurts, thickeners like corn starch are added to make the yogurt appear and ‘taste’ creamier. Starch thickeners are also added to French yogurts, but the higher fat content seems to lessen the starchy texture.
In general, French yogurts have a higher fat content than American yogurts because the ingredient base is whole milk and/or added cream. American yogurts are usually made with 2% milk, (low-fat) with the exception of Stonyfield that uses organic whole milk. (Even Stonyfield’s whole milk yogurt has 50% less fat than my typical French yogurt I like).
Fat is a key ingredient for flavor, but is also a macronutrient that keeps your blood sugar stable. Fat used to get a bad rap, but eating a balanced diet with a moderate intake of lipids is now considered a healthy diet. And European yogurt, especially those made with active cultures is a healthy food. And when you combine this higher fat content with the higher protein content in yogurts, especially Greek yogurt, and this makes French yogurt a perfect snack for the morning or afternoon sugar dips.
The other secret ingredient that isn’t found or is added in lower quantities in French yogurts is added sugar. American yogurts taste sweeter (probably because they are lower in fat and do have more sugar) and they have a different texture, more rubbery or a starchy mouth feel.
Here is the example of Activia Strawberry Nutrition label in America and France:
Activia Strawberry Sold in America
Activia Sold in France
Note for Matieres Grasse (Fat): for 100 grams the French yogurt has 3.3 grams of lipid/fat. This is compared to 1.5 grams of lipid for the 113 gram American Activia yogurt.
Sucres (Sugars): there is 13.0 grams of sugar for 100 grams of French yogurt and 18 grams for 113 grams of American yogurt.
The dairy base of Activia in France is made with whole milk, powered low-fat milk and cream. It is this mélange of three milks that also adds to its real natural taste. The American version is made with low-fat milk.
Other differences between French and American yogurts
The taste, texture and lastly the choice! Truth is there is not much yogurt choice in America, especially if you compare the selection to the French full long grocery store refrigerator aisle of different types of yogurts.
Yogurt is a typical example of how a food culture population dictates the demand for a product. In France the culture supports eating a yogurt daily dose. Kids have yogurt on the school lunch menu and yogurt is a common dessert eaten at home.
Give me a delicious full-fat, no added sugar plain French yogurt anytime over an American low-fat added sugar colored yogurt. Which is the more healthy choice? What do you think?
Shh-think French. (Doesn’t this look yummy?)
Last foodie note: It looks like I am not the only one to ‘complain’ about this big taste difference between the yogurt challenge! Here are how some others compared French yogurt to American yogurt.
Have you reached the end and want to read more? The ‘little stories’ series is almost over for this summer, but you can read other articles, recipes and good health tips with a French and European twist by subscribing below. By joining us you will receive a monthly newsletter and a free 13 page E-report on “How to Eat Like the French without a Food Snob Attitude” in your inbox. I promise that your email will remain private. Subscribe by clicking here: Subscribe to BrightonYourHealth or on the button below. And I always appreciate when you share my articles (thanks in advance).
Thanks for your support. Warmly, Mary