I get to see a lot of cool products in my job. One of the coolest products we are currently carrying at Whole Foods Market is Siggi's Skyr. Not only is it a great yogurt but the back story is awesome.
Skyr is Icelandic-style yogurt, a traditional delicacy that is thicker and higher in protein than most yogurts. It is made from skim milk and has almost no fat. Think Greek yogurt that has adapted to survive harsh arctic winters … hardier and refreshingly sour, with 16 grams of protein, zero saturated fat and just 120 calories per 6 oz serving.
Siggi Hilmarsson grew up in Iceland and was homesick one holiday season a few years ago. He had grown up hearing about his grandmother's skyr and decided to try his hand at making some of his own. In 2006, he started selling his own brand of skyr.
I first heard about Siggi's skyr when I was the grocery coordinator in the Northeast region and a frequent visitor to the downtown NYC farmer's markets and cheese shops, where Siggi had premiered his creation. It soon ended up on my desk during a new item meeting with one of our dairy distributors. I loved the hand labeled package, the simple list of ingredients, including the agave nectar used for sweetness, and that he used five distinct bacterial cultures. Carrying his product was a no-brainer, but Siggi did not yet have capacity to supply us, so we had to wait.
In the meantime, Siggi partnered with some dairy farmers in upstate New York to produce more skyr. Upstate New York is a legendary region for milk products, with a true sense of terroir and a history of sustainable dairy production that goes back to the colonial era. Siggi was able to find some like-minded farmers whose hormone- and antibiotic-free milk would be ideal for such an artisanal product. Consistent with his locavore and eco-friendly tendencies, Siggi also started using yogurt cups with 50% less plastic, packed in a recyclable cardboard sleeve.
Once Siggi was ready, we decided to launch his products in several dozen stores on the east coast. The response was overwhelming and Siggi had a hard time keeping up with demand. In fact, he had to build a whole new production line to supply our skyr-hungry customers!
Despite sporadic supply issues, sales were huge and the legend of Siggi's Skyr spread westward. Our regional buyers have a lot of autonomy in selecting what goes on our shelves, and they keep an eye on what's moving in other parts of the country. When they spot a hit, they work to pick it up and bring it to their customer base. And that's what has happened with Siggi's Skyr. And so, starting this month, Siggi's Skyr will be available in most Whole Foods Markets nationwide, in six fantastic flavors and two convenient sizes.
From a downtown farmer's market to national distribution, Siggi's is a real life example of how Whole Foods Market and our great producers are working together to bring the best stuff to our customers.