Quark has been a largely-unknown dairy product in the US until very recently, and Wünder Creamery takes some credit for the uptick in recognition.
Its quark product is sold flavored and in single-serve cups, not unlike the popular snacking formats for yogurt and cottage cheese. Wünder went through a rebrand in spring 2018, and was formerly known as Misha Dairy.
Can quark gain footing in US?
Co-founder Daniyar Chukin told DairyReporter that the company decided to pivot and lessen confusion around the branding. He pointed to the tendency of dairy brands to use a ‘geographic anchor’ with their product, whether Icelandic, Australian, Lebanese or Greek.
“Everybody seems to be communicating with the consumer in the language of the geographic province of the product,” he said.
Chukin is familiar with the global quark market, and though it’s successful in more than 40 countries, the team chose to primarily position their product with a European base. Quark has a $1bn presence in Germany, and Chukin said it’s more popular than yogurt in Russia.
Though Chukin considers the education aspect of the product to be getting easier, it’s been a long, five-year road to build up the category in the US.
“I’m coming to the opinion that there is such a thing as too early. When we were initially trying it, the level of recognition wasn’t there, it was just too much of an out-there proposition,” he said.
The increase in quark recognition has been supported by Wünder's presence in the Northeast, and competitor Elli’s presence on the west coast. Liebe, a major player from Germany, also recently entered the US.
Chukin thinks the decline in Greek yogurt sales and increase in cottage cheese products is making the time ripe for a quark moment in the US. Consumers are looking for more high-protein, low-sugar snacks offer indulgent flavors, which fits quark's description.
“Everyone’s trying to crack the code--how do we get American dairy consumption to keep rising? Within the European context and the rest of the world context, the US is really lagging,” he said.
From separators to ultrafiltration
Wünder recently moved to a new production facility, where it can manufacture as a completely non-GMO product. Its milk was the last ingredient to be verified, and Chukin said that getting non-GMO milk in the northeast is more difficult than in other regions of the US.
The company is also using a new technological process for making the quark. Previously, they were using the typical cultured milk straining process with a centrifugal separator. It spins the cultured product, separating the heavier and lighter parts.
Wünder has now transitioned to using ultrafiltration membrane technology, which doesn’t involve any moving or spinning, but the principles of osmosis to separate through a membrane. According to Chukin, very few dairy companies in the US are using this method.
He says that it produces a silkier and smoother texture and flavor, and a much higher product consistency batch-to-batch.
Wünder's portfolio now includes nine flavors, adding Strawberry, Coconut and Mango to its existing Plain, Coffee, Matcha, Blueberry, Raspberry and Vanilla & Coconut. Each 5.3oz cup contains 15-16g of protein and 10-14g of sugar. It is available in Shaw’s, Shop-Rite and regional chains in New York.
The company also has a charitable aspect and works with local organizations like City Harvest to donate its quark product to those in need.
Mandy Geisler, senior marketing manager at Wünder, said, “We’re firm believers that when you’ve got something good, it’s always best to share it. To date, we’ve donated thousands of pounds of our satisfying and nutritious quark to our mission partner City Harvest, New York City’s largest food rescue organization."