Ah, yogurt ads. They depict everything from women forgoing actual raspberry cheesecake for a container of the yogurt version, to female friends comparing the bliss of yogurt to things that are seemingly just as good: a foot massage, a raise, shoe-shopping, chocolate and a sense of zen itself.
But why has the yogurt message in the United States morphed into one specifically targeted at women? This episode of our Stuff Mom Never Told You podcast digs into the issue:
Because as hosts Cristen Conger and Caroline Ervin explain, honestly, there's nothing inherently feminine about yogurt. It's made by culturing cream, milk, partially skim milk or skim milk with bacteria to produce lactic acid and give yogurt its texture and tangy taste. From there, yogurt can be flavored with fruit, sugar or artificial ingredients.
The practice of making yogurt can be traced back as far as 6000 B.C.E. in the Neolithic era, when herders stored animal milk in animal-stomach containers that contained natural enzymes that curdled the milk. From this inauspicious beginning, the practice of eating yogurt has been well documented throughout history. Yogurt was a dietary staple for Genghis Khan and his army, and has long been a staple in Indian and Turkish cuisine, which were introduced to the North America as early as the 1700s.
By the 1940s, the first large-scale commercial production of yogurt in the United States began in the Bronx, New York, by a company now known as Dannon. By 2014, yogurt had become a $7 billion industry in the U.S. alone, a figure expected to rise to $9 billion by 2017.
And although the marketing of yogurt to women is a purely societal construct, there is an argument to be made for women's health. Yogurt helps curb vaginal infections. And it also helps mitigate gastrointestinal issues like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and constipation, which women experience at higher rates than men.
But the benefits aren't only for women. Because yogurt has active bacterial cultures that produce lactase, the enzyme that helps people digest lactose, yogurt can be eaten by people who are lactose intolerant. And the calcium in yogurt can help prevent osteoarthritis.
So, while many commercials — at least for now — continue to portray women eating luscious spoonfuls of delicious yogurt, there are signs of change. The NFL has an official yogurt, and you'll see occasional ads featuring men touting the benefits of the foodstuff's protein content. Pass a spoon and check out more on yogurt in this Stuff Mom Never Told You video: