Quark: the peculiar name for the health food that’s fast becoming a mainstream consumer trend. Made through the warming of soured milk until curdled (with the addition of lactic acid bacteria) and then strained, quark is more cheese than anything else. Low in salt and high in vitamin K2, it boasts more protein than Greek yoghurt.
Quark is emerging as one of the last bastions of dairy-based trendsetters, with worldwide sales increasing year on year by 22%. Also known as kvarg, it's a bit of a mainstay on the continent and also in Central Asia, but its entry into the UK scene seems not to have been affected by the gradual shift in power to plant-based 'milks,' with a number of key players releasing new quark products in the last 30 days alone.
The great quark rat race
Food and drink behemoth Nestlé announced last month the arrival of its Lindahls Kvarg range into the UK, citing the current trend in healthy living as the catalyst for bringing over what is Sweden’s biggest quark product. Lindahls Kvarg comes in three different formats: small flavoured pots, a larger, natural-flavoured pot and an on-the-go drink.
Müller also released its first quark product last month, a mix of both yoghurt and quark available in three different flavours. This coincided with the dairy giant's first-ever lactose-free range.
Waitrose has taken aim at the new market as well, combining quark with kefir – another dairy product seemingly immune to the recent trends – to add to its expanding Bio-tiful range at the beginning of March.
It’s clear that quark is very much the flavour of the moment – but what exactly is it that has got major companies racing to release their versions?
Ticking the boxes
Quite unlike the grotesque Star Trek character of the same name, quark the foodstuff is the definition of an attractive, super healthy commodity. Due to its firm but creamy texture, it’s similar to cottage cheese but low in FODMAPs and lactose, making it ideal for those with IBS (irritable bowel syndrome). Salt is not necessary in the creation of quark, meaning that it has considerably less when compared to cheeses; it also has the lowest salt per 100g when compared to yoghurts.
An entire 500g pot of Nestlé Lindahls Kvarg Natural, for example, contains just 4% of an adult’s recommended daily salt intake.
Compared to Greek yoghurt, the average quark product has almost double the amount of protein per 100g. It also has a very low fat content, with some examples rolling up at 99.8% fat free and around 70 calories per 100g.
Like other dairy products, quark contains nutrients such as calcium, vitamin K2 and B vitamins, while it can also be used as a substitute in sauces, cakes and desserts – as registered nutritionist Dr. Laura Wyness explains:
“Quark is a great ingredient to use in desserts such as cheesecake or carrot cake, and in savoury dishes such as pasta or fish pie, in place of cream or cream cheese. It’s a great choice because it can help to reduce the calories and fat in dishes, and you still get a smooth and creamy richness. It’s exciting to see more quark options in the supermarkets!”
Talk about ticking those boxes – certainly enough of them to persuade some of the food industry’s hardest hitters to join the bandwagon.
What about you, Sparkie, ready to ditch cheese for quark on your quackers?
Quark is fat free and high in protein – those cues alone make it an ingredient that is potentially really trendy and well shopped. It’s generally brilliant; you can make lots of dressings that are low in fat but still give an amazing dairy mouthfeel like it’s creamy.
Ashkenazi Jews from the Germanic Eastern Bloc have a curd cheese that they’ve taken and dried and set with a little bit of vanilla, then rolled in chocolate and put in freezer like ice cream. I think we might see people experimenting with that here.
There’s definitely life in quark, from fat-free dips and dressings to brilliant tzatziki. And for breakfast, it’s good with fruit and granola!