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Differences In Food Cultures: French Yogurt Is Taste Heaven

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? differences between french and americaI 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.

Here is a picture of my daily dose of Taste Heaven:differences between french and america

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

differences between french and 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.

differences between french and america

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?)

differences between french and america

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.

Why is American yogurt so awful….”

Europe’s Yogurt a Delight…

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).

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Thanks for your support. Warmly, Mary

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18 Responses to Differences In Food Cultures: French Yogurt Is Taste Heaven

  1. Kira June 14, 2016 at 22:26 #

    Interesting article. I recently got a European yougurt at a health food store by accideny because the where out of my regular yogurt but I am baffled by the taste. I opened it and smelled it and it had such a strong smell that I had tl taste it before adding it tl my food and I gagged. It seemed like a mixture of sour cream with yogurt. I don’t believe this is French but is this normal for all European yogurts? I cannot imagine this as dessert.

  2. kay canto February 23, 2016 at 17:40 #

    That was interesting what youvsaid about thevleck of bagels in france as I believe bagels origionated in Jewish communities I Europe. In fact I heard at some point you could only get bagels I Jewish areas before they caught on in usa. I wonder in perhaps in kosher markets or pkaces is Jewish communities you might be able to find bagels in France.

    • mbrighton February 27, 2016 at 20:35 #

      Hi Kay! Bagels are starting to become more popular in France, I can now buy them at the local grocery store. Unfortunately they do not taste as good as the bagels that I buy in NJ/NYC area. But that is ok 🙂

    • kay canto March 3, 2016 at 17:43 #

      Well yes NY they say makes the best bagel due to the water, but Im wondering if in kosher style places in France like kosher markets owned by Jewish families they might have better bagels. Bagels origionate in Europe and they origiobated from Jewish culture. Iv never been to france so Im not sure. I think most Jews from Poland and Germany brought them to the USA, but from what iv heard from people who traveled to Poland unless you stay at somebodys house its hard to get good food. Im guessding its just not culturally common to buy anything made except bread maybe and baked goods so bagels you might be able to get there.
      Yes its true higher fat yogurt in fine if you do not eat too much and it fills you up more so you eat less. I miss that traditional greek yogurt thats hard to find.

  3. kay canto February 23, 2016 at 17:05 #

    That was an I teresti g article. Whole foods makes a full fat yogurt too in usa. But yes/whoke milk yogurt is harder to fine gere and im guessing the added cream makes tge whoke milk yogurt in france higher fat. A couple of times I found a traditional greek style yogurt I used gor a dessert that was full:fat and msybe evrn higher fat then french yogurt,but greak yogurt is often used as a dressing or dollop on fruit hense the high fat content. Iv akso sonetimes find a very creamy yogurt in my local farmers market. Its tangier tgen store bought yogurt possibly becsuse its naturalally cultured. Itsvi teresti g though because in greece and france the obesity epidemic seems much lower. My husband always says if a lower fat product tastes good it has less sugar and his heart dr, told him to switch to a higher fat milk and his weight went down. We switch between fresh whole milk from a farm and whole foods brand milk whrn we cant get to the farm or sometimes whoke foods sells milk from a local dairy thats higher in fat and creamier then commercial whole milk.I think fat free ptoducts often dont tell are bofies we are full abd make it easy to over indulge. But I think faux sugars invluding the natural ones do the same.

    • mbrighton February 27, 2016 at 20:36 #

      Hi Kay! Thanks very much for your comment and observations. Very interesting !

  4. Andrea November 30, 2015 at 15:11 #

    Thank you Mary! I will give this a try!

  5. Andrea November 23, 2015 at 18:42 #

    I have been wondering for years now what the answer is! Thank you for writing about this topic. I have tried in vain to recreate French yogurt in America by making it myself. Still no luck. Is there any chance, the bacterial culture used is different? For me, the big thing is texture. I like how you can “cut” into the French yogurt and it holds it’s shape. Whereas, here it is slimy and more pudding textured. I used whole milk and whole milk powder to make my homemade version with an organic stonyfield yogurt as a starter and yet still, didn’t achieve that sublime texture I miss so much. Any thoughts or advice would be much appreciated!

    • mbrighton November 24, 2015 at 14:51 #

      Andrea, that is an excellent question…I too have tried to recreate the French yogurt version, even using the French yogurt I buy here…one thing I haven’t tried yet is to add a small dose of heavy cream to the yogurt base (before cooking over to yogurt). I noticed that on the creamy French yogurts I love, they contain a small amount of creme entiere (heavy cream). Perhaps this could be the answer ?

    • kay canto February 23, 2016 at 17:44 #

      I have bough teaditional geeek yogurtcwith added cream. Its actually higher in fat then evenbfeench yogurt inthink. But lately its hard to find.

    • mbrighton February 27, 2016 at 20:34 #

      Dear Kay, the added cream in greek yogurt will make it a higher fat source than regular yogurt. This is not an issue unless you eat too much of it 🙂

    • kay canto March 3, 2016 at 17:22 #

      Yes but I think the added cream and the fact that they strain it makes a slightly different texture andctaste then even french yogut. Inlike traditional greeek yogurt but its hard to find lately since waldbaums closed.

  6. Brian Boland September 23, 2015 at 13:21 #

    Great article Mary. Cant wait to try French yoghurt again…. Thanks, Brian

    • mbrighton September 24, 2015 at 10:13 #

      Merci Brian! Appreciate your comment. Keep up the good ‘foodie’ work at your house! 🙂

  7. Lety September 21, 2015 at 17:41 #

    Fat… a key element for yoghurt (and not only)!!
    When I lived in France I didn’t try a real yoghurt as the one in the picture. It looks like really tasty!! Ten years ago, in Ohio, I tasted a fat, delicious, creamy yoghurt (I will not report the brand, to avoid advertisement). And after Ohio yoghurt, I started of not eating Italian one!! In the last years I restarted of eating Italian yoghurt, but I’ve to admit it’s not the best in the world…
    Hoping of trying French yoghurt (the real one) asap!!!
    Thank you, Mary!!

    • mbrighton September 24, 2015 at 10:16 #

      Cara Le* ,Hoping you are well in Italy ! I was surprised to hear about this American yogurt, perhaps it is the same brand I know that it almost like the French versions (healthy, simple and not fat restrictive 🙂 ) I am sure one day you will enjoy these French yogurts as well as your beautiful children will. Auguri per une bella giornata. Mary

  8. EA-The Spicy RD September 18, 2015 at 17:23 #

    Great post! I have to share my story of “almost eating” French yogurt this summer…My family and I traveled 1 day from Paris to Normandy with a driver and we stopped at a gas station/market {I was impressed with the size of the roadside markets!}. My kids and I wanted a snack, so I was searching for gluten-free items for myself, and finally settled on yogurt. You are right-SO many choices. And, I don’t speak/read a lick of French, so I chose one, and guess what it turned out to be? Pudding! {Or maybe it was custard} My kids and I agreed that it was the best “yogurt” we’ve ever had in our lives 🙂 Hope you’re doing well!
    EA-The Spicy RD recently posted..Quick and Easy Lentil Feta Bruschetta ~ 3 Delicious Ways!

    • mbrighton September 21, 2015 at 14:36 #

      Good Morning Spicy RD! Loved this story of your French adventures. Yes, I know exactly the type of ‘yogurt’ /pudding/custard you found at the supermarket. My kids love this dessert too-and I usually have to correct them when they call it ‘yogurt’. It does taste very good. Glad you got a visit to France into your busy summer! A bientot, Mary

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