Sue Reed, who lives in Northumberland and runs a business knitting with recycled wool, has been making her own yoghurt for years. “We’ve been trying to live sustainably and frugally for a long time. We grow our own veg, try not to use supermarkets and were eating seasonally before it all became zeitgeisty,” she says. “You could say we’re hippies in the hills, but it really is so much cheaper and tastier to make your own yoghurt.”
Reed is not alone. Store chains John Lewis and Lakeland both report a rise in sales of yoghurt-making products, and online retailer EasiYo says demand is up by 26% in the past year.
Reed brings fresh milk to the boil, then allows it to cool before tipping it into a plastic tub with some starter culture. She then leaves it in her airing cupboard under a woolly cover. “You don’t actually need fancy equipment,” she says, “just a bit of practice.”
However, John Lewis buyer Stella Winklewska reports that sales of an £80 multicooker with a yoghurt setting are up 300%. “Our customers are getting more creative in the kitchen and investing in [products that allow them] to add a personal touch.”
At Lakeland, a spokesperson cited concern for the environment and a desire to reduce plastic waste as driving sales of its own-brand electric yoghurt maker, up by 49% in the past year.
The growth of DIY makers comes at a tricky time for “big yoghurt”: following a decade of growth, yoghurt sales fell by 6% by volume in the year to February, according to Nielsen data, and sales of Greek yoghurt declined by 11%. In Britain the Grocer reported volume sales for big brands down by as much as 10% in 2017. For food writer Priya Krishna, homemade yoghurt isn’t just a staple but a way to connect with her heritage. “For many South Asians, the important element is the starter culture: it not only gives yoghurt its unique, familiar flavour, but also allows makers to preserve and perpetuate their heritage,” she writes.
Krishna tells of relatives who transported yoghurt cultures across continents and shared them with their community. “A long-lived starter culture can become an heirloom,” she says. Her own father has nurtured his yoghurt culture for 26 years.
The forecast for non-dairy yoghurts remains healthy, however, as the market adapts to demand for coconut, soya and almond milk. With an eye on the growing vegan market, this month the boss of French group Danone announced plans totriple its healthfood sales by concentrating on plant-based drinks and desserts.
But could waiting at least eight hours for homemade yoghurt to ferment become the norm? “I think I made my own yoghurt once, in 2008,” says food writer Felicity Cloake. “But you can buy such great stuff I don’t really see why you’d bother.”
Yoghurt in seven steps
• Heat a litre of milk to just under boiling point, stirring so it doesn’t catch or bubble over.
• Cool in a basin of cold water until just warm to the touch.
• Mix culturing yoghurt – dried starter culture as directed or a small pot of live, plain, preferably organic yoghurt (check the label for “made with live cultures” or a list of “live bacteria”) – with the cooled milk.
• Whisk thoroughly until smooth.
• Tip into a thermos flask, glass jar or plastic container and make sure the lid is on tight and incubate in a warm place (the oven, a sunny window, a warm car).
• Ensure the yoghurt stays at a temperature below 48.9C and above 32.2C for eight hours.
• Whisk again thoroughly, then cool in the fridge for six hours.