Europe – The rise and fall of Ski Yogurt

As children growing up in the 1970s, we liked Europe. Before we joined the European ‘Common Market’, Britain was an old-fashioned country that didn’t encourage change; it clung onto concepts like ‘knowing your place’, ‘not talking about politics, religion or money’, and that ‘Britain leads the world’. Millions of people were employed in boring routine jobs that paid them quite well to cross-check invoices, put biscuits in a box, take shorthand notes and type letters, set up metal type for printing or screw the number-plates onto cars. If you were Irish, impoverished, Black or seen as ‘deviant’ in some way, it probably wasn’t the golden age that others seem to hark back to.

With Europe came aspiration and the idea that your life could be lived a different way. You could eat different foods, spend your time in a different way, have new ways of relating to people, change your environment – these were exciting ideas that came from embracing – instead of mocking – other people’s culture as had previously been the norm. If we hadn’t joined the EC/EU things would have happened at a different pace … sure, Britain would have had to embrace new technologies and civil rights eventually, but not in the same way.

Story | Ski Diary

The rise of Ski yogurt shows how Britain changed aspirations and the image of the family.

In the 1960s, the first Ski yogurts were made – based on a food that was common in many parts of mainland Europe. The first TV adverts showed someone skiing and then an ordinary family crowded into a tiny 1960s black and white living room saying everyone loves the new food. They were trying to fit ‘yogurt’ into how we lived our lives then.

Ski yoghurt advert - 1979 - YouTube
1979 Ski yogurt advert

Roll on to the 1970s when we looked to Europe as an interesting, more modern place that we could learn from, and Ski yogurts are leading the way. In this one TV advert, we see the trappings of European lifestyles that looked so appealing to us kids squashed in with our miserable families in dark rooms.

  • The duvet or, as was known then ‘continental quilt’
  • Cuckoo clocks and pictures of mountains
  • Low level furniture and pine tables
  • Open plan staircases and open shelving
  • Towelling robes and daily washing
  • Having a fridge, and a full-stocked one at that
  • Enthusiasm, playfulness and family love
  • Wearing white clothes as if you could just wash out the dirt
  • Women leading the way on an adventure
  • Going outside as a family, with Dad involved – not down the pub

From that 1970s promise of a different life, Britain has flexed and changed. Cities like Birmingham now look much more like other modern European cities. When we’re allowed again, people in Birmingham will enjoy sitting outside cafes, taking in culture and exploring the outdoors with their families just like the Italians, the Germans, the French ….

High Street Birmingham 1971 - a photo on Flickriver
Birmingham 1971
A Midland Metro tram on the new line past Birmingham Town Hall
Birmingham 2020

And of course we eat more yogurt. The last decade saw a surge in yogurt consumption in the UK, but mainland Europe still consumes the most yogurt. However, the industry is concerned about a recent fall. As some people’s love for Europe has waned, so a reported ‘yogurt fatigue’ has also hit the market. Instead of having to choose between Ski raspberry or strawberry, there are now hundreds of different flavours, brands and styles of yogurts on offer at supermarkets; Ski’s market share is now tiny. Too much choice and over-familiarity have led to customers replacing yogurt as a snack and dessert option – probably with chocolate brownies, based on the people we know.

Array of yogurt in the supermarket

There are deep-set reasons why some influential rich people have always been against the UK being part of Europe: investments, taxes, ownership and legal constraints etc, but ordinary people chose to vote leave for all kinds of other reasons. Punkgirldiaries is a cultural blog; we’re not qualified in politics, but many people seem to have voted to leave the EU just because they were fed up and fancied a change. Like ‘yogurt-fatigue’, the plethora of different yogurt-style Europe things and ideas has got boring, so yeah, why not leave? We’d love Britain to be miserable again.

Story | Ski Diary
2003 Ski yogurt advert

2 thoughts on “Europe – The rise and fall of Ski Yogurt

  1. Yoghurt Queen May 2, 2022 — 8:14 pm

    Ski adverts were fun, but the yoghurts themselves weren’t that different to the supermarket yoghurts. The real difference was when those Muller Fruit Corners came in. Gosh they were delicious. And Greek yoghurt. And now that Icelandic stuff: skyr? Anyway you’re right it’s all European.
    As a non-Brit, I think you went a bit far with “Britain would have had to embrace new technologies and civil rights eventually, but not in the same way..” Continental Europe isn’t great on either compared with the UK. I get the whole “Brexit was bad” thing but the idea that the rest of Europe helps bring colour to grey Britain is nonsense. Britain is more technologically advanced than most of Europe except perhaps Scandinavia. And the UK’s attitudes to minorities like me are a lot better than anywhere I’ve been in Europe.

  2. Thought-provoking for me, as a Yank who is right now watching a jingoistic president in his final political death throes. As an American who has spent a good deal of time in the UK, starting in the early 80s on through to today, I’ve had that “foreigner’s observer” experience of watching the “Ski yogurt” cultural shift in the UK. I also think that shine of “foreign” culture catches our eye like a silver coin—behold, IKEA. Hordes of suburban Americans filling their homes with Scandinavian furniture says something about my own nation’s desire for different, clean, crisp, and… exotic.

    For American punks like myself who thought This Charming Man, Cities in Dust, and Gates of the West were exotic ballads that floated across the Pond from an edgier, cooler, gloomier UK, Ski Culture looked like Hammersmith Palais, King’s Road, or anywhere “down by the river” where we might catch a glimpse of Joe watching the wheat growing thin.

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