The Best Place to Dip Your spoon...
...is into a pot of St Benoît Yogurt
Today marks the start of the Second Annual Independent Food Festival and Awards and I am delighted to have been given the opportunity to give an award for "The Best Place to Dip Your Spoon" to French brothers David and Benoît de Korsak for their wonderful product, St Benoît Yogurt.
The reasons I love St Benoît and their yogurt are many:
First and foremost, this yogurt tastes real. If you are more used to eating mass-produced, artificially sweetened brands of yogurt containing thickeners, stabilizers, preservatives and fake flavours, I can't guarantee that you are going to like St Benoît's more natural version. It tastes so pure, so tangy, so creamy and so fresh all at the same time. Your tastebuds will be dancing on your tongue for joy if you will only give them time to adjust to this unique new taste experience and allow them to differentiate it from the mass-produced yogurts they are more used to.
Delicious Natural Flavours. Personally, I am firmly in the plain yogurt camp. At breakfast-time I like to pair it with June Taylor or Lulu's Garden preserve. Sometimes I even make up a fresh jelly from seasonal fruit to go with it. If you prefer your yoghurt pre-blended and ready-to-go, St Benoît offer their own strawberry and plum flavoured yogurts made using organic fruits grown in the orchards of their Sonoma County terroir. Their most popular seller is a yogurt with honey made by the Marshall's Farm busy worker bees.
St Benoît yoghurt is good for you. Not only does it have high levels of calcium and protein compared to the same volume of milk, because it is cultured after pasteurization, it is also contains plenty of the live cultures that aid digestion. Read more here.
This yogurt is not as dangerous to the waistline as the cream on the surface might have you believe. Recently St Benoît started putting nutritional information on their yogurt pots. Because I have noticed, in general, that artisanal food producers tend to shy away from sharing these facts, I asked Benoît de Korsak what prompted the change. One reason, he told me, is that he was receiving a lot of emails asking for such information so he felt there was a need to communicate it, especially because the yogurt is less rich than what most customers who contacted him thought. I know how those customers felt. Because the pot is large (213g/7.5oz) and the surface of the yogurt is covered with an irresistable layer of yellow jersey cream that belies the lighter tangy yogurt underneath, I had wrongly assumed that it must be horrendously fattening and was limiting myself to just half a pot a day. When I found out that entire pot was only 169 calories I doubled my intake. I wish more artisanal products would include nutritional information. In the case of St Benoît it certainly made good business sense - I now buy twice as much as I used to!
It's really not as expensive as its naysayers claim. If you buy a pot of St Benoît plain yogurt from their market stall, it will cost you $3.25 for 7.5 oz. Of this total, $1.25 is a deposit that will be reimbursed to you when you return the pot for reuse. Total cost of actual yogurt, therefore, $2.00. Two bucks is what you will pay for 7oz of Total Greek yoghurt at Wholefoods. De Korzak further makes a case for the value of his yoghurt. "When you look at the price per ounce and not the absolute price, we are not the most expensive yogurt in the SF Bay Area. Also you need to compare comparable products. We are the only artisanal yogurts available. Most of our competitors make hundreds of thousands or millions of yogurts every week. We currently make only 2000 yogurts a week. Additionally, our margin is actually less than the industry standards because we only use local high quality farmstead ingredients which makes the yogurt more expensive than a yoplait yogurt. Also we only use natural ingredients. We do not use milk powder, we only use whole 100% Jersey Cows milk which is more expensive than any other milk."
If you still find it too pricey, consider that it is paramount to St Benoît that their yogurt production does not impact too harshly on the environment. If you value the environment too, then spending a few extra coins on a product that has a real commitment to addressing environmental issues is going to be money extremely well spent.
St Benoît's commitment to the environment is genuine.:
"We believe the land we benefit from is unique and as a business we want to protect it"
Cleaner Transportation - St Benoît use a Compressed Natural Gas vehicle for their yogurt business. "The CNG truck is very reliable. The maintenance may be a little more expensive but again it fits our philosophy and is worth every penny", says de Korzak.
Potato Spoons - St Benoît use biodegradble spoons made from potato starch for people who want to sample their wares at the market. De Korzak notes, "One key principle of our business is to harm the environment as little as possible. Even though we pay four times more for biodegradeable spoons than plastic spoons, we then feel more comfortable using 1000 spoons each Saturday."
Reusable Ceramic Containers - St Benoît yoghurt is sold in adorable ceramic pots that are far too likeable to ever be thrown in the trash. A deposit encourages customers to return them to the place of purchase for a refund. I asked de Korzak if he was happy with the precentage of your customers who return the pots for recycling? "Yes and especially at the farmers market where some Saturdays we have close to a 90% return rate. It also shows the loyalty of our customers who come every week, rain or shine", he replied.
New lids - Until just last week St Benoît's yogurt pot lids were made from plastic which de Korsak explained to me that they were not happy using. Their preference was for foil lids, but initially there wasn't a way for them attach them to the pot satisfactorily. So they contracted an engineer to build them a special machine that would do the job. Hey presto: the St Benoît product line now has lids that are now more environmetally friendly than they used to be.
But what about the impact of business growth? Even when it comes to the success of their venture, the de Korsaks' key principals have an effect and instead of the brothers being set on global domination they intend to remain as local sustainable producers. "We keep it locally so that we can properly supply", admits de Korzak. Even so, the business is growing and as of last week, St Benoît now sells its yogurt at The Ferry Building Farmer's Market on Tuesdays as well as Saturdays.
What about the future? Although I can't persuade Benoît de Korsak to use their rich, Jersey milk to make me a Bay Area version of my beloved and much missed Cornish clotted cream, I can disclose that I may not be a plain yoghurt kinda girl for much longer. The brothers have been experimenting with a new flavour for their St Benoît yogurt and I have been lucky enough to have had a couple of pre-launch tastings. It's something to look forward to, but I think I am going to build up the suspense and keep you guessing as to what their latest pairing might be until it is offically announced later in the Spring.
In the meantime, if you live in the Bay Area, get down to the Farmer's Market or visit one of St Benoit's stockists to find out for yourself just how good an award-winning yogurt tastes.
The Independent Food Festival and Awards are founded on a simple concept:
Food can be a wonderful part of life. A growing legion of people in the world think of every meal as an opportunity for a great experience. And yet, sometimes it seems like an ever shrinking number of people actually make great food. tasteEverything is dedicated to the idea that the more people share their great experiences, the more likely it is that the people who make great food will prosper and increase in number.
Discover other food awards being presented today and throughout the rest of this week over at the 2006 Independent Food Festival and Awards.
Links, Resources and Further Reading
Bay Area Resources:
Yoghurt | from St Benoit
The Ferry Building | Market Place
Saturday Morning | Farmers Market
Accidental | Yogurt Labeling
St Benoît blogged and reviewed elsewhere:
Sweet & Savory
I'm Mad and I Eat
|Archive Alert! On this day in 2005: Was the Barbie & Fritz flat romance really a year ago?|
Yogurt | Food | Eat Local | Sustainable | San Francisco | Bay+Area | Market | Ferry Building The Best Place to Dip Your spoon...