Local yogurt on menu at inaugural luncheon


The Leader-Herald

JOHNSTOWN – When President Barack Obama and his guests attend the Jan. 21 inaugural luncheon, they’ll get a taste of the Mohawk Valley by eating Greek yogurt made at Fage USA.

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., came to the Johnstown yogurt factory Thursday to announce the locally made yogurt and Saratoga Springs water will be at the luncheon.

Schumer is the chairman of the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies.

He said the luncheon will be a prime opportunity to promote New York state food.

“This is the most prestigious meal in Washington every four years,” Schumer said at the news conference. “I said this is a great opportunity to highlight New York foods. Everybody in the country will be able to taste it, eat it, and hopefully, it will increase sales.”

Fage Greek Yogurt will provide vanilla and plain yogurt to be served with strawberries, pineapples, pears and granola toppings to inaugural guests, including the president, vice president and their families before the swearing-in ceremony.

Schumer said the product will be on the national stage.

“Fage Greek yogurt is what’s for breakfast at the inaugural ceremonies this year,” Schumer said. “Serving Fage before the inaugural ceremonies shines a spotlight on one of New York’s biggest, and most delicious, dairy products. President Obama, Vice President Biden, and other officials in government will all get a taste of the delicious Greek yogurt New York state can produce, and I’m proud to showcase this company on a historic day.”

A news release said the yogurt will be available throughout the Capitol in the hours leading up to the ceremony and will be offered to members of both political parties in all three branches of government, former presidents and vice presidents, and many others.

Other New York state products will be on the menu as well, including: an apple pie made with apples from Golden Harvest Orchards in Valatie, Columbia County, honey from Seaway Trail Honey in Rochester, cheeses from Cooperstown Cheese Co., Crown Maple syrup from Dutchess County and two wines, a Tierce 2010 Finger Lakes dry Riesling and a 2009 Merlot from Bedell Cellars on Long Island.

“We are very proud and honored to have Fage yogurt served at the presidential inauguration and thank Sen. Schumer for choosing us,” Fage Director of Marketing Russel Evans said. “We sincerely hope that the Obama and Biden families and their guests enjoy it.”

Schumer said it will be a priority of his to have the president sample Fage.

“I will ask the president if he ever had Fage before and I will ask him to stack it on his refrigerator shelf,” Schumer said. “I will tell him it is healthy and is something you should give to your daughters.”

The Fage company is in the middle of planning a $120 million, 180,000-square-foot addition to its plant in Johnstown and expects the newly constructed portion to be in production in 2014.

When fully operational, the expanded plant will double production from 80,000 to 160,000 tons of yogurt annually, said Evans. The expansion will add 140 employees to the 240 working at the plant now. Fage opened the facility in the Johnstown Industrial Park in 2008.

The 57th Inaugural Ceremonies will be Jan. 21 since Jan. 20 falls on a Sunday this year.

This is the seventh time in U.S. history that the constitutionally mandated inauguration date has fallen on a Sunday. The last time was for President Ronald Reagan’s second term in 1985, a news release said.

The Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies is responsible for the oversight and planning of the presidential inauguration, but Schumer said it didn’t take much effort to get Fage on the menu.

“Once the committee members had a taste of [Fage], it didn’t take much convincing,” Schumer said.

Johnstown Mayor Sarah Slingerland said she was pleased and honored to have Johnstown represented at the ceremonies.

“We know we have one of the world’s best products produced here,” Slingerland said.