As I’ve mentioned before, I grew up in Iceland, in a very traditional Icelandic family where we ate cod + boiled potatoes for most dinners and cod fish liver oil + skyr for breakfast. Our snacks consisted of raw licorice (which was sold at the local pharmacy), rhubarb, dried fish, and, on occasion, homemade cookies and cakes. Brand-name items such as Cocoa Puffs, Coca Cola, and Prince Polo (Polish chocolate wafers) were only for special occasions such as holidays and birthdays.
Now, everything Icelandic seems super popular, especially the yogurt-like dairy product known as skyr. Basically a byproduct of the cheese-making process, skyr has been part of Icelandic cuisine since approximately 900 AD.
Problem: An Icelander who got homesick while living in NY, Sigurdur Hilmarsson decided to make his own homemade, Icelandic skyr. After a few years of “fiddling around” in his kitchen, he recreated his Grandma’s skyr recipe and brought this wonder yogurt to market.
I was super excited when I discovered Siggi’s Skyr in one of my neighborhood markets, and I bought some even though I thought the price was rather steep (in the old days, my dad used to buy kilos of skyr that we had to order from the local dairy maker).
I slowly opened the tub and dipped my spoon in the skyr. Anticipating my childhood treat, I shoved a full tablespoon of it into my mouth. Oh dear… hmmm… I was confused: this wasn’t the skyr I remembered. I read the ingredients on the label and realized, much to my shock, that this wasn’t real skyr as I remembered it: too much sugar, plus a bunch of unpronounceable ingredients. I closed the lid and tossed the skyr tub I was eating to of in the garbage ;-( Then I took the rest to my office to see if my co-workers liked it and they did. Hmm… maybe I’m being too harsh, but I just haven’t warmed to Siggi’s Skyr as I don’t think it’s the real thing.
The Fix: Don’t FAKE IT! If you are asking people to try something “authentic” from your home country that they’re not familiar with, then deliver the real deal. There is no need to add “modern” ingredients, which, unfortunately, turned out to be mostly sugar and synthetic flavors that are often extractions of “natural” ingredients. If you do need to fake an authentic food, then just be honest about it. Position your brand and product as “based upon an old tradition of Icelandic Yogurt.” Or say, “a modified version of my ancestors’ recipe.” Don’t invent some hideous story about it being “inspired by my grandmother’s recipe.” Ugh…That’s just old and it reeks of fakery and deception…