Monday, December 16, 2013

Yogurt by Greeks

Greek yogurt may be all the rage in food today, but did you know that it was the Greek-Jewish Carasso family who created Dannon yogurt? The descendant of a prominent Sephardic family, Isaac Carasso (1874-1939) was born in Ottoman Selonik (modern Thessaloniki, Greece). In 1912, after he moved his family to Barcelona, Spain, Isaac Carasso noticed that many Spanish children suffered from digestive disorders. He applied the theories of Ilya Metchnikoff that postulated the positive effects of lactic acid bacteria, and began producing yogurts containing lactic acid bacteria. These yogurts were sold by pharmacists. He named his new company Danone, the nickname of his son, Daniel.

Daniel Carasso (December 16, 1905-2009) moved to Paris in 1923 and continued his father’s yogurt tradition, but only after studying both business and bacteriology. Carasso expanded Danone’s market through sharp marketing (Delicious and healthy - Danone is the dessert for happy digestion) and innovation (adding fruit for flavoring).

Shortly after the Nazis entered Paris, Daniel and his new wife, Nina, escaped to New York, where Daniel quickly returned to yogurt making. After purchasing a small facility in which Greek Yogurts had been being produced, Carasso, along with Joe and Jose Metzger, created the Dannon Milk Products Company.

The Carassos returned to Europe after the war. Their business had survived under the care of friends. Carasso started a campaign to increase his yogurt’s popularity and, in so doing, became an international business superstar. Daniel Carasso passed away at age 103 in Paris.

In the last few decades, yogurt choices have expanded immensely. Of the many yogurt products available in North America, however, Dannon is known for producing yogurts that are kosher for Passover. Please note, however, that not all Dannon products are kosher and certification on the packaging is required.

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