Feeling homesick for Iceland, Siggi Hilmarsson created an American success story.
Like many a newcomer to Manhattan, Siggi Hilmarsson arrived with big, vague dreams of entrepreneurial triumph. "Working for a corporation was not going to do it for me," says the 6'5" native of Iceland, who moved to the States for business school at age 25. Two years later, he was... working for a corporation. He felt frustrated, homesick, and still unaccustomed to American food. "There was sugar in everything," he says. "For me, sugar was something you'd find in chocolate, not whole grain bread." One of the Icelandic treats he missed most was skyr: thick, strained, protein-rich yogurt. Driven by nostalgia and ambition, and armed with recipes his mother dug up in a Reykjavik library, Hilmarsson made his first batch of skyr in his cluttered kitchen in December 2004.
Six years after that lonely Christmas, Siggi's Skyr is available at Whole Foods and Stop & Shop in nine flavors (peach and strawberry debut this month). The list of ingredients is refreshingly brief—Siggi's blueberry variety contains only fruit, milk (from small family farms in upstate New York), and agave, which doesn't cause a sharp spike in blood sugar like other sweeteners. "People are seeking this explosiveness on the palate, so they start to drift away from the flavor of a real fruit," Hilmarsson says. "But an actual blueberry on its own tastes pretty good!"