Is Greek Yogurt Still Greek If It’s Made In America?

It's all Greek-style to us.

It’s all Greek-style to us.

We label all sorts of products with country names — Italian ice, French dressing, Swedish meatballs — regardless of where they were made, or even if they have any actual ties to the country being name-checked. But a court in the UK has ruled that Chobani can’t label its product as “Greek Yogurt” because it is made in the U.S.

The ruling comes as a result of a lawsuit filed by Athens-based yogurt company Fage against Chobani, which is headquartered in New York.

The AP reports that Fage had long dominated the Greek yogurt market in the UK with its TOTAL brand, but that it began to lose customers to Chobani when it launched its product in Britain in 2012.

Last year, a UK court ruled that Chobani’s use of the phrase “Greek Yogurt” on its label was misleading to consumers who may then believe that it’s a product of Greece instead of Chenango County, NY. At the time, the judge issued an injunction prohibiting Chobani from using that descriptor on its products.

Chobani appealed that ruling, but earlier today an appeals court once again ruled against the U.S. yogurt company, upholding the lower court injunction against the use of the term “Greek Yogurt” to describe something made not in Greece.

Never to be daunted, Chobani says it plans to take its case further up the UK appeals ladder.

“We remain of the view that the population of the U.K. know and understand Greek yogurt to be a product description regardless of where it is made,” said Chobani in a statement. “We remain committed to the U.K. market and to breaking the monopoly on the use of the term Greek yogurt enjoyed by Fage.”

It seems unlikely to us that this specific issue will end up being raised stateside, mostly because “Greek yogurt” is a relatively new item to many American consumers. As mentioned above, American shoppers are used to the idea of country names being used as adjectives to describe a style of food that may not necessarily be the source of that food product. After all, Philadelphia cream cheese was not created in Philadelphia nor is it made here.

Meanwhile, it hasn’t been a banner year for Chobani. Last fall, the company issued a recall of some of its products after complaints of moldy and exploding yogurt containers. At the time, the FDA said it knew of 89 illnesses believed to be related to the recalled yogurt.

Then in December came reports that high-priced grocery haven Whole Foods was going to phase out Chobani over concerns about possible genetically modified content in the yogurt.

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.