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May 22, 2009

How The Jews Invented Yogurt

Meant to cure digestive disorders, prolong life.

Daniel Carasso, a Pioneer of Yogurt, Dies at 103
By WILLIAM GRIMES, NY Times

Daniel Carasso, who helped turn yogurt from an obscure ethnic food into an international staple through the Danone brand in Europe and Dannon in the United States, died Sunday at his home in Paris. He was 103.

The death was announced by Groupe Danone, of which Mr. Carasso was honorary chairman.

The Danone brand owes nearly everything to Mr. Carasso, including its name. When his father, Isaac, created the yogurt in Barcelona in 1919, he named it after his son, whose nickname in Catalan was Danon, or Danny.

From this small start-up operation Daniel Carasso developed a global business, beginning in France in 1929, expanding to the United States during World War II and eventually reaching markets as far-flung as Mexico, Brazil and Morocco. “My dream was to make Danone a worldwide brand,” he said at a news conference in April to celebrate Danone’s 90th anniversary.

Mr. Carasso was born in Thessalonika, Greece, where his Sephardic family had settled four centuries earlier after the Jews were driven out of Spain. In 1916 his father took the family back to Spain, where he became disturbed by the high incidence of intestinal disorders, especially among children.

Isaac Carasso began studying the work of Élie Metchnikoff, the Russian microbiologist who believed that human life could be extended by introducing lactic-acid bacilli, found in yogurt and sour milk, into the digestive system. Using cultures developed at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, Isaac began producing Danone.

At the time, yogurt was exotic. Although a traditional food in Greece, the Middle East, southeastern Europe and large parts of Asia, it was known elsewhere only to a small population of health faddists. Early on, Danone was marketed as a health food and sold by prescription through pharmacies. Gradually it found favor as a milk product that did not spoil in the heat.

In 1923 Daniel Carasso enrolled in business school in Marseille and, the better to understand yogurt, took a training course in bacteriology at the Pasteur Institute.

In 1929 he planted the Danone flag in France, just in time for the worldwide business slump. “I barely realized that there was a financial crisis raging around me,” he said at a news conference in April. “I was too caught up in trying to find dairy stores to sell my product.”

His efforts paid off, as the French took to this newfangled food, but in 1941 the arrival of the Nazis forced him to flee to the United States. There he formed a partnership with two family friends, Joe Metzger, a Swiss-born Spanish businessman, and his son Juan, whose flair for marketing would make Dannon a household name in the United States.

Mr. Carasso and the Metzgers bought Oxy-Gala, a small Greek yogurt company in the Bronx, and in October 1942 began producing unflavored yogurt in half-pint glass bottles under the Americanized name Dannon.

Customers paid 11 cents and a 3-cent deposit. Juan washed out the returns. “We only sold $20 worth a day, but even then we were the bigger of the two companies in the business,” Juan Metzger, who died in 1998, told People magazine in 1980. (Joe Metzger had died in 1965.)

The little company operated at a loss until 1947, when, in a concession to the American sweet tooth, strawberry jam was added to the yogurt. Sales took off, new flavors were added to the product line, and Dannon yogurt made the leap from specialty product to snack food and dessert. In 1959 the company was bought by Beatrice Foods.

Mr. Carasso returned to Europe after the war to restart Danone in Spain and France. He then embarked on an aggressive campaign to expand the business by establishing Danone plants in other countries and merging with other food companies. It acquired the fresh-cheese company Gervais in 1967 and in 1973 merged with the bottle maker BSN, which was eager to expand the food side of its business.

The new company, BSN-Gervais Danone, bought Dannon from Beatrice Foods in 1981 and changed its name to Groupe Danone two years later. One of France’s largest food conglomerates, with revenue of nearly $19 billion in 2008, it ranks first in the world in sales of fresh dairy products and second in sales of bottled water and baby foods.

Mr. Carasso is survived by a daughter, Marina Nahmias, four grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

Comments

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SO when Ben COhen dies, after 120, are you going to write an article how the Jews invented ice cream????

In my practice I deal with this everyday; Jewish people with digestion problems. They range from irritable bowel syndrome to Crohns dz and Ulcerative colitis. The probiotics help and we now prescribe them along with other things to heal the gut.

A great success story.

RF: Are you an actual MD?
Why do you think digestion problems are a "Jewish" thing?

Daniel Carasso is a modern success story but this man did not "invent" yogurt. However, he did certainly popularize it.

Yogurt has been around for thousands of years. Bedouins have made yogurt a permanent part of their diet centuries before Abraham.

Of course a Jew invented Yogurt -

Mel Brooks!!!

May the Schwartz be with you!!!

Ashkenazis have the worst diet ever invented. It's an amalgamation of the worst of Polish, Russian and German food. Obviously a lot evolved out of poverty and necessity. But why would you eat stuffed derma now unless you served it with a side order of Lipitor?

Oy, and what's a vegetable? Something you should cook until it turns gray.

Sefardic food is wonderful and mostly healthy.

Popularizing yogurt was very commendable. I agree with the probiotic comments before. Wonderful food, easy to make at home. I make kefir myself. Go look up Sandor Katz at www.wildfermentation.com/

>>>In my practice I deal with this everyday; Jewish people with digestion problems. They range from irritable bowel syndrome to Crohns dz and Ulcerative colitis. The probiotics help and we now prescribe them along with other things to heal the gut.

Posted by: radical feminist | May 22, 2009<<<<

RF –

Would you please be more specific? What else do you prescribe?

Yogurt has been around for thousands of years. Bedouins have made yogurt a permanent part of their diet centuries before Abraham.

I just ran across this article on how to make your own yogurt the other day:

Make Homemade Yogurt with 20 Minutes of Effort

>Ashkenazis have the worst diet ever invented

I disagree. It's only my opinion but I think African-Americans have the worst diet.

Here is a copy of the post I sent Shmarya, hope it is of value to some of you.
I am a Naturopathic Doctor. I graduated from a 4 year medical school after doing my undergrad pre-med program at the UW and focus on alternative non-invasive treatments for dz.
We try to rebuild the gut and we try to find out if there is an irritant. We look for the cause. There appears to be a genetic component to IBD that makes Ashkenazi at greater risk. My mother was a Sephardim however and my brother has Crohn’s dz so there may be other factors.
We usually will run a series of labs to determine if the person has a food allergy. We run something called a GI health panel.
We place them then on a restricted diet and supplement with probiotics ( a brand know as Pharmax ultra flora IBD and or Metagenics Ultra IBD is the best) and an amino acid known as L-Glutamine, that has been found to restore the gut lining. We also prescribe a series of supplements and make sure the person is receiving enough vitamins and nutrients; this can be a problem due to poor absorption. Natural anti-inflammatories include Turmeric, ginger boswelia, carotenoids. There is a product by metagenics called “Sustain”, that can sometimes help build the gut, it’s a powder that you would drink with rice milk and maybe add pureed berries for extra nutrition. I might place a patient on that for a month. The biggest food allergies we see are wheat and dairy and these two foods are the first to be pulled. I hope that give you an idea of some of the things you could try.
Take care

In the "old days" in the Middle East, a lot of Jewish and Arab moms used to make yogurt at home, eg. my maternal grandmother, z'l. It's called "leben" in Arabic (= lavan in Hebrew= white).

Dr. Dave beat me to the punch. Nice Spaceballs reference.

Are you thinking of Labeneh? It's kind of like a cross between cheese and yogurt. The Druze make it fabulously.

And don't you wish Dannon came with a Hecksher? Just as a nod to the company's history.

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