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Iceland Mag

Food & Drink

This man left his job on Wall Street to produce strained yoghurt, following a fifty year-old recipe

By Sara McMahon

  • Siggi's Skyr. SIgurður Kjartan Hilmarsson is the founder of an American based dairy company which produces Icelandic skyr. Photo/Siggi's

Sigurður Kjartan Hilmarsson founded The Icelandic Milk and Skyr Corporation in 2006. He now has fifteen employees and sells skyr to grocery stores all over The US.

 

Sigurður Kjartan Hilmarsson, a 37 year-old Icelander, is the founder of The Icelandic Milk and Skyr Corporation, a small company based in New York City that produces traditional Icelandic skyr for American consumers.

Hilmarsson sells his product line to over four thousand grocery stores across the United States, the most popular product being Siggi’s Skyr, available with eleven different flavours. For those unfamiliar with Skyr, it’s an Icelandic dairy product, similar to strained yogurt.

Hilmarsson, also known as Siggi, moved to the US in 2002 to complete his MBA degree at Columbia University. He moved into a flat in the Tribeca neighbourhood in Lower-Manhattan and that is where his first batch of skyr was made in 2004.

“I was young, and maybe stupid, but I decided to go for it. I quit my job at Deloitte’s and founded The Icelandic Milk and Skyr Corporation.”

“It began as a hobby. I liked to cook although I had no professional experience or training. I asked my mum to fax me a recipe for skyr which she had found in an old magazine from 1963,” Hilmarsson explains, admitting that the ­skyr-making did not come naturally to him at first.
“It proved to be quite the challenge to begin with, but after some time I started to make progress. By then I had already graduated from University and was working for Deloitte Consulting on Wall Street. However, I didn’t enjoy working for such a large company.”

Friends and family encouraged Hilmarsson to spawn out and sell his home-made skyr to local shops, which he eventually did.
“I was young, and maybe stupid, but I decided to go for it. I quit my job at Deloitte’s and founded The Icelandic Milk and Skyr Corporation.”

Hilmarsson now employs fifteen people and his dairy products are sold to grocery stores all over the US.
Asked whether he has any plans to move back home to Iceland, Hilmarsson says he is going to stay on in New York for the time being.  “I go home during the summers to hike, but I’m going to stay on in New York for a while,” the long-haired dairy entrepreneur explains. 

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