We’re going to be seeing an awful lot of cottage cheese on restaurant menus and in dairy cases in 2017, whether we want to or not. Why? I dunno, man. A few years back, Greek-style yogurt seemed to come out of nowhere and people went gaga for it and suddenly the entire dairy aisle of the grocery store had been retrofitted to accommodate yogurt flavors—all kinds of flavors, great flavors with mix-ins like acai, carrot-ginger with pistachios, mango, and plain old honey—and levels of fat content and sweetness. It seemed like there was a yogurt flavor for everyone, even the lactose-free and vegan (yes, there’s vegan “yogurt,” and here’s a great recipe for coconut yogurt), who had previously been alienated by yogurt culture.
And cottage cheese was pushed out. Not all the way—there were still a few cartons on the shelves with variances in curd sizes and fat content—but no one seemed especially interested in dolling it up with the latest wonderfruit or, heaven forfend, flavor profile. Cottage cheese is the stuff of diner “diet plates,” unlovingly scooped and plopped atop a lettuce leaf, with a few measly, canned cling peaches and an non-bunned hamburger patty. It’s a pejorative term for cellulite-dappled thighs. No one is sexily spooning and mmm-ing cottage cheese in TV ads run during daytime talk shows. Cottage cheese does not have its John Stamos, and if it did, who would it be?
But cottage cheese is attempting a comeback—or, perhaps more precisely, an appeal to consumers who had long dismissed it as their mother’s penance food, or just failed to see the appeal of pale, lumpy, spoonable milk. Major dairy producers such as Chobani, Breakstone, and Yoplait, as well as smaller cooperatives, are betting that 2017 will usher in a new era of cottage cheese consumption. They’re backing that effort with a slew of yogurt-esque single-serve packaging (seriously—try to imagine pushing away from your desk or kicking back after yoga class for a relaxing, fortifying cottage cheese break), and of-the-moment-ish flavors like blueberry acai chia, mango habanero, and Kalamata olive. They’re extolling cottage cheese’s health benefits like protein content (minus yogurt's sugar levels, but with a good dose more sodium) and touting its versatility as a lower-fat ingredient in recipes. But is anybody going to buy it?
Who knows? Cottage cheese has never really gone away. It’s always been findable on shelves and diner menus if you look closely enough. It must have its fans, and maybe they’ve just been in hiding, sidling over to the margins to enjoy their homespun dairy while the yogurati hogged the spotlight. Maybe by mid-2017, we’ll all just be choking down cottage cheese by the tubful whether we want to or not, and yogurt’s grand reign and easy accessibility will be but a distant, tangy memory. Stranger things have happened.