We had the pleasure of sitting down with Dannon’s senior director of public relations, Michael Neuwirth, and communications and community affairs associate, Lexie Leyman, to learn more about the delicious and nutritious yogurt!
Corey Baumer: First off, what are some of the benefits of yogurt? What should people know about yogurt that they don’t already?
Michael Neuwirth: Eating one yogurt every day is an important step towards creating a more balanced diet and a healthier lifestyle. Yogurt contains many nutrients that are important and under-consumed in the diet today. The average American eats about one and a half servings of dairy every day, and the U.S. government suggests three servings of low fat/non fat dairy every day. So, right now yogurt and dairy overall are under-consumed in the diet, and that creates a shortfall, or a lack of nutrients that we can get from yogurt such as calcium, vitamin D, and potassium. One other key benefit that most people are unaware of is that yogurt is also a suitable option for people who are lactose intolerant because yogurt contains less lactose than other forms of dairy. A lot of people choose not to eat any dairy at all because they are lactose intolerant, but they don’t know that they may be able to comfortably enjoy yogurt.
Lexie Leyman: And yogurt itself is also very versatile. So those individuals that are lactose intolerant have dairy avoidance, but on the other end of the spectrum you might have individuals who haven’t been open to trying yogurt. However, because of its versatility and ability to substitute for things like cream cheese or mayonnaise or sour cream, it’s a nice way to incorporate dairy into your diet while removing some of the calories and fat you might typically find in a cooking recipe.
CB: What different brands of yogurt does Dannon have?
MN: Let’s do them in alphabetical order. So we have Activia, which is a probiotic yogurt. It has a digestive health benefit. Second would be brand Dannon, what we call our core. It’s available in both blended and fruit-on-the-bottom varieties. Then we go to Danimals, our brand for kids. We have two varieties: Danimals drinkables as well as Danimals Greek. Then we go to Light & Fit, which is a brand of yogurt we make that has no added sugar. Our two varieties are basic Light & Fit and Light & Fit Greek. Those products have generally 80 calories per cup. Then Oikos. Oikos is our flagship brand of Greek yogurt, available in fruit-on-the-bottom as well as blended varieties. It is an excellent source of protein. People are increasingly cooking with Greek yogurt. Those are the five key brands that we focus on. The big picture is that we have a variety of brands made to suit a variety of preferences.
CB: What was your experience with SoWe (Southern Westchester) Food & Wine Festival last year? What can we expect to see differently in 2014?
MN: We were an inaugural sponsor and supporter of SoWe in 2013. We believed in the vision that Westchester, where we call home, loves great food and is a real collection of communities. The vision for SoWe 2013 was to bring together people who adore food as we do, to bring together our company, our employees, and our product with our neighbors, and to support great food choices and fun and community coming together in a unique way. Our experience last year was terrific. Throughout the course of the day we had sixty volunteers from our company who participated in sampling and talking to the attendees. We had a wonderful experience. We sampled upwards of five, six thousand cups of yogurt, and any yogurt that was left over we offered to the Foodbank of Westchester. We had a great time. From a people perspective, from a community perspective, it was a very fulfilling experience.
LL: It was extremely well received, not only because it was such a wonderful event to be a part of, but because our employees got to put their extensive knowledge of yogurt into action. To be able to interact with our local community meant that we’ve had people approaching us pretty much since January as to whether or not we’d be participating again this year. It’s been something they’ve been looking forward to for several months now. This year we’re really looking forward to, as the event expands not just geographically, but over multiple days, to expanding and showing how diverse yogurt can be. As Michael mentioned with the brands, we have something to suit everyone. It’ll be a really nice opportunity to showcase how yogurt is more than just your breakfast snack. It’s just exciting for us to be able to expand our presence here. We have been headquartered in Westchester for more than twenty five years, so we’re thrilled to be able to go into this community once again.
CB: How is Chef Michael Symon involved with Dannon?
MN: Chef Symon has been our Oikos brand spokesman for more than a year. He’s a wonderful partner to work with on our Oikos brand of Greek yogurt showcasing how easy and versatile it is to cook with. In his own words, he has said it reminds him of “Greek yogurt his YaYa used to give him.” So it’s full of rich memory for him. He loves the product, loves the brand, loves cooking with it.
CB: What is your favorite yogurt and recipe?
MN: I hate questions like this! I don’t have a favorite. It changes every day! [Laughs] I’ll pick two. My favorite Dannon product is Oikos vanilla. If I was in a supermarket and had to buy something for myself, that’s what I would get. I’ll also say that we are so lucky to be in such a creative and food loving environment. In addition to our corporate team, our research and development team is located here in Westchester. So we get to taste the future, some of which you’ll eventually get to taste and some of which will never make it that far. But being in our offices, for a foodie, it’s candy land. It’s Willy Wonka Ville. We get to taste things that are so full of imagination.
LL: I’ll also have to say, too, at this very moment, my fridge is stocked with the 32 ounce quart of Oikos plain only because I’ve recently discovered how wonderful an addition it is to cooking chicken. I did a chicken parmesan and replaced the egg wash with Oikos Greek and now I think I’m a chef. It’s a nice way to give myself an ego boost. And my fridge is also stocked with, not for myself, Dan-o-nino, which is a small and very nutrient dense kids’ product we make. You have a lot of kids, around one to three years old, for whom a smaller amount of is more appropriate. So it’s less volume with a lot of the same important nutrients kids need, like calcium. They keep the little ones entertained and I know they’re getting something really good for them.
CB: And last, but certainly not least, have you guys ever met John Stamos [spokesman of Oikos]?
MN: [Laughs] Yes, yes, I’ve met John Stamos. He’s a pleasure to work with, such a talented guy. He has such a passion for his work. He’s a great guy.
LL: I’ve only met him in my daydreams.