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Tomotari Mitsuoka Mechnikov Grigorov Girginov


Bulgarian pioneer who succeeded in mass-producing high-quality yogurt for the first time in history

Tonyu Girginov (1907-1992)

In Bulgaria, the birthplace of yogurt, there are about 150 domestic food companies that produce yogurt products, and their factories churn out a total of 140,000 tons of yogurt annually. In addition, it is estimated that roughly 40,000 tons of yogurt is made at people’s homes each year.
In Bulgaria where people care more about yogurt than any other country in the world, and all yogurt used to be homemade, Girginov’s technological invention has enabled the steady production of high-quality yogurt in large volumes at factories.

Production technology was invented at the first yogurt factory in Bulgaria

After completing his study of veterinary medicine at university, Girginov worked for a sanitation control research institution in Bulgaria’s capital, Sofia, and later switched jobs to become the chief of the first yogurt factory in Bulgaria, which was run by a dairy company owned by the Serdika district government, from 1944 to 1951. Among Girginov’s accomplishments there, he developed and introduced technology for automating the production process, enabling factory production of storable, tastier Bulgarian yogurt.
Previously, all yogurts consumed in Bulgaria were homemade, mainly from sheep milk. However, to allow stable factory production of yogurt, sheep milk could not be used as the main ingredient as it would not be available in winter; rather, a stable and reliable source was needed. Girginov decided to use cow milk instead. Believing that it was important to follow the traditional method of making homemade yogurt, Girginov worked on improving the factory set-up to allow it to mass-produce high-quality yogurt the traditional way.

Achieving the milestone of producing 100 tons of delicious yogurt a day

Put simply, yogurt-making involves merely adding a starter culture to heated milk and letting it sit until the starter bacteria ferment the milk and turn it into yogurt. The principle of the process is very simple. However, it is not so easy to continuously mass-produce yogurt while keeping its quality even and steady.
In order to mass-produce the best-tasting yogurt possible from the ingredients, Girginov tackled each issue as it arose, including: milk quality management, selection of the bacteria to be used for fermentation, temperature management throughout the production process, pH adjustment, and fat adjustment. Girginov eventually succeeded in fully automating the entire production process, and the Serdika dairy factory was brought on stream. While the initial daily production was only about 10 tons in the first year, it was eventually ramped up to over 100 tons per day.
Until 1989, the factory that Girginov set up was the largest yogurt factory in operation in Bulgaria.

Provision of production technology to various countries around the world

After completing his work at the Serdika dairy factory, Girginov changed jobs and started working for the Higher Institute of Food and Flavor Industries in the southern Bulgarian city of Plovdiv in 1951, where he would continue to work and thrive as a leading researcher in the field until 1974 when he reached the retirement age of 67. Based on Girginov’s successful effort to industrialize the traditional art of yogurt-making, several new factories were built in Bulgaria, and its total yogurt production continued to increase.
Also, the patents that Girginov obtained are still valid today, and it has been argued that the technology he invented might have singlehandedly enabled the factory production of yogurt around the world. While he was active, Girginov frequently traveled not only across Bulgaria but also to various other countries, including those that have relatively advanced dairy product industries such as Austria, Germany, and Italy, as well as Japan, for the exchange of information, technical guidance, and granting of licenses.

Higher Institute of Food and Flavor Industries in Plovdiv

Higher Institute of Food and
Flavor Industries in Plovdiv