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“Colombo” Yogurts – How Armenian Matsun Conquered America

Did you know, that yogurt was popularized in America by Armenian emigrants Sarkis and Rosa Colombosian? Rosa and Sarkis founded “Colombo & Sons Creamery” in 1929 in Andover, Massachusetts – the first yogurt brand in the US.

Almost until the 1940s, the United States did not know about yogurt, without which the diet of the average American today is difficult to imagine. This fermented milk product, whose annual sales exceed $8 billion, was first presented to Americans by emigrants from the Western Armenia – Roza Krikorian and Sarkis Colombosian.

Sarkis moved to Chicago in 1910 to help his brother, who was selling hot dogs. Rosa moved to America in 1922 with her two brothers, sister and her husband. She eventually settled in Lawrence, Massachusetts, where she worked in a wool factory. It was in Lawrence that she met her future husband Sarkis, who at that time was selling fruits and vegetables.

With four children in the family, Rosa decided to help her husband: using the old Armenian recipe for matsun (matsun is a fermented milk product of Armenian origin) she began to prepare yogurts adapted for America, which a little later received the name “Colombo” (short for Sarkis’s surname – Colombosian).

Hence, the Americans were offered an unknown product – yogurt. The first batches of “Colombo” yogurt, cooked on a wood-burning stove using traditional Armenian recipes, were distributed among neighbors and friends.

The “Colombo” yogurt was originally delivered in a horse-drawn wagon that was inscribed with the Armenian word “Madzoon”. Later it was changed to “yogurt” – the Turkish name for the product, as Turkish was the lingua franca between immigrants of various Middle Eastern nationalities who at that time were the main consumers of this product.

The Colombosians’ sold their first yogurts in the Middle Eastern stores of Massachusetts, and their first clients were Syrians, Lebanese, Greek and Armenian settlers – all those who were familiar with the yogurt tradition.

By 1940, the product’s fame had spread, the Colombosians’ business was booming, and they began shipping their yogurt throughout New England (Northeast USA).

At first, American shopkeepers were apprehensive about offers to sell a dairy product that was completely unknown to the local population. But soon yogurt became very popular among Americans as well.

By the 1960s, when doctors identified the beneficial properties of yogurt and confirmed that the product contains a good amount of protein and has anti-aging properties, the “Colombo” yogurts began to be swept from store shelves at an incredible rate.
By 1975, the “Colombo” yogurts were the best-selling yogurt in America.

Over time, many other manufacturers appeared on the market, such as “Dannon” and others, who competed with the Colombosians. At that time, the management of production of “Colombo” yogurts passed into the hands of the sons of Sarkis and Rosa – Bob and John.

The brothers introduced a new type of yogurt into production by putting pieces of fruit and berries on the bottom of the jar. After this innovation of their yogurts, the sales of the Colombosian company skyrocketed.

However, in 1993, “Colombo” was sold to the French company “General Mills”, which, unfortunately, in 2010 suspended the production of historic “Colombo” yogurts. “General Mills” has announced that it will be discontinuing the “Colombo” brand to focus more on their “Yoplait” yogurt.

And now, once famous yogurt brand “Colombo”, has become just a bright page in the history of the Armenian business in the USA and in the history of yogurt as such…

"Colombo" Yogurt
Rosa and Sarkis Colombosian
"Colombo" Yogurt
"Colombo" Yogurt
"Colombo" Yogurt
"Colombo" Yogurt
"Colombo" Yogurt
"Colombo" Yogurt