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TikTok Recipe Causes Feta Shortage for Some Cheese Shops in the U.S.

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(Photo by Eurokinissi/ Stelios Misinas)

NEW YORK – The TikTok app, besides offering youngsters an outlet for their creativity has also spawned some unusual side effects, including a feta shortage in some areas after a food blogger in Finland posted a recipe via the app featuring Greece’s beloved national cheese. The video is available online: shorturl.at/lotxC.

The New York Times reported on February 26 that Anne Saxelby, the founder and co-owner of Saxelby Cheesemongers, in New York City, was “surprised when a supplier told her that a recipe on the popular video app TikTok had whipped up such a demand for feta that she wouldn’t get her weekly shipment of the cheese.”

“Saxelby and her feta maker — Narragansett Creamery, a small Rhode Island dairy — had been swept up in the video recipe phenomenon known as baked feta pasta,” the Times reported, adding that “it’s an exceedingly easy, extremely creamy oven-baked pasta sauce made with a whole block of feta cheese nestled into a pint of cherry tomatoes, with olive oil, chiles and garlic.”

The recipe first went viral “in Finland in 2018, after the food blogger Jenni Hayrinen made uunifetapasta, Finnish for oven-baked feta pasta,” which “was a streamlined version of a dish called Prosecco spaghetti and oven tomatoes, made by Tiiu Piret, another Finnish food blogger,” the Times reported.

The recipe “didn’t really take off in the United States until it started racking up ecstatic fans on TikTok in early January,” the Times reported, noting that “the videos are just as likely to be made by influencers as by teenagers without large followings,” and “now #fetapasta has more than 600 million views, not counting spillover into Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and followers of Rachael Ray, the Today show and Good Morning America.”

According to the Times, “by mid-February- when feta was the No. 1 search term on the Instacart grocery delivery app- The Charlotte Observer reported temporarily empty feta shelves at local stores like Harris Teeter supermarkets” and “demand was up 200 percent, said Danna Robinson, a spokeswoman for the company, which operates more than 230 stores in seven states.”

“Narragansett Creamery, which supplies Saxelby Cheesemongers and markets like Zabar’s and Eataly with its Salty Sea Feta, is now expanding weekly production to 10,000 pounds a week, from 6,000, said Mark Federico Jr., who runs the company with his parents,” the Times reported, noting that the “higher figure is how much they used to produce at the height of summer salad season, before sales to restaurants were gutted by the pandemic.”

“Kroger was also caught off guard, said Walshe Birney, who oversees the specialty cheese counters for the national supermarket chain, which owns Murray’s Cheese,” the Times reported, adding that “sales of feta blocks, which bake up creamier than the crumbles, were up.”

“This is the largest and most geographically broad interest and sales increase in a product that I have personally ever seen,” Birney told the Times via email.

“While there is no shortage of feta at Krinos Foods, the country’s largest importer and maker of Greek and Mediterranean food products, sales have been stronger than usual for months,” the Times reported, adding that “Eric Moscahlaidis, the company’s chairman, said Krinos was able to persuade some Walmarts and Costcos to run trial sales of real Greek feta in addition to the cow’s milk versions they already stocked.”

It should be noted that Greek Feta is a protected designation of origin (PDO) product in Europe. The production of Feta follows the strict European specifications under which a product can be certified as PDO which identifies a product originating in a specific place, region or, a country, whose quality or characteristics are essentially or exclusively due to a particular geographical environment with its inherent natural and human factors, and the production steps of which all take place in the defined geographical area.

Feta has been produced in a traditional way in Greece since the 8th century BC, exclusively from sheep’s milk or a blend of sheep’s and goat’s milk. There are over 6,000 species of plants that sheep and goats graze on, and of the 6,000 species, 15% are unique to Greece which accounts for the delicious complexity of flavor in real Greek Feta.

Feta is never made from cow’s milk. White, brined cow’s milk cheeses, often chalky and tasteless, should never be confused with the creamy, flavorful, real, PDO Greek Feta.