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Turlock cheese maker finds favor with Med dieters

POSTED June 26, 2012 7:46 p.m.

Karoun Dairies has been a leading producer of artisan cheeses and natural yogurts for over two decades, but recently the Turlock-based company has had an increase in demand for one its more ethnic products — labne.

Although a staple of traditional Mediterranean diets for many generations, many Americans are unfamiliar with labne.  Labne is a thick and creamy spreadable kefir cheese that is a healthier choice for cheese lovers who are watching their fat and sodium intake.  It is traditionally made by draining whey from slightly salted yogurt, and can also be a healthier alternative to regular cream cheese. It is also rich enough to be used as a substitute for sour cream. Kefir cheese contains an ample amount of probiotic bacteria, which offers support for the immune system and maintains the natural bacterial balance.

 “Labne is one of the best products I’ve tasted in a very long time.  It could easily be one of the biggest hits of 2012,” said Phil Lempert of Supermarket Guru.

The interest in labne may be contributed to the increase in popularity of the Mediterranean diet. The diet incorporates the basics of healthy eating — with a splash of flavor from the traditional cooking style bordering the Mediterranean Sea, and an occasional glass of red wine. Part of this diet includes traditional Mediterranean cheeses like labne.

“The Mediterranean diet has become more popular as part of a healthy diet.  We’re seeing more cross-over,” said Rostom Baghdassarian, co-CEO of Karoun Dairies. 

Karoun Dairies makes its cheeses and yogurts in a state-of-the-art plant in Turlock.  Their dairy products are free of thickeners, stabilizers and made with fresh rBST growth hormone from Real California Milk.

“We’ve been an ethnic leader for 10-12 years, so our growth is coming from the mainstream market,” said Baghdassarian, who noted that several recent additions, including the company’s Mediterranean-style probiotic all-natural, are finding favor among a wide spectrum of consumers.

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