Snacks: Can Yogurt Grow Beyond Greek?

Consumer interest in yogurt spiked when Greek yogurt hit the scene.
greek yogurt

Consumer interest in yogurt spiked when Greek yogurt hit the scene. But some questioned whether or not the product’s solid growth could be sustained.

Industry experts say it can. And is yogurt worth suppliers' continued investment and development? Yes again.

Greek and regular yogurt maintained top spots (2 and 3) on London-based research agency TNS’s top 20 snack categories with growth potential, which are rated based on unmet consumer needs and category momentum. McLane has experienced 49% growth in yogurt sales in c-stores and a 29% increase in consumer units sold over the past year, with Greek products such as Chobani showing an unprecedented rise. And a 2015 Mintel report projects that although growth of Greek yogurt is slowing as the hype wears off, both spoonable and drinkable yogurt will see growth through 2020.

According to Chicago-based Mintel beverage analyst Elizabeth Sisel, total retail sales of yogurt and yogurt drinks are projected to reach $7.98 billion in 2015, a gain of 2.9%. That pace, a slowdown from the strong year-over-year growth from 2011 to 2013, is indeed due to the fading “novelty of Greek-style products,” says Sisel. But in the overall category, “sales are expected to continue upward as consumers remain interested in health, nutrition and high-protein food and drink products.”

Consumer interest in Greek yogurt will likely remain, but the spotlight is shifting to other products to help yogurt’s long-term growth. Mintel forecasts another 16% in sales gains from 2015 to 2020, reaching $9.25 billion.

$7.98 billion: Total projected retail sales of yogurt and yogurt drinks in 2015. –Mintel

Let’s look at a few of yogurt’s rising stars.

Beyond Sweet and Fruity

In the past, yogurt has been viewed as a slightly better-for-you sweet treat, but savory, herbal and floral yogurt flavors may expand that narrow usage as consumer flavor preferences diversify. Yogurt suspensions beyond fruit are also expanding as manufacturers experiment with oats, gels, nuts and seeds. Heartier add-ins may alter the perception of yogurt as both a treat and a snack food, making it a more savory and filling meal option.

Product to Watch: Chobani’s new Flip yogurt, part of a significant portfolio expansion launched in January, allows consumers to conveniently add mix-ins such as pistachios and pumpkin seeds into their portioned yogurt via a unique package with two separate compartments—one for toppings and one for yogurt. The consumer simply flips the toppings over into the yogurt, mixes it and eats.

Tim Barry, corporate director of fresh and foodservice for Core-Mark, South San Francisco, Calif., says Flip’s two hottest flavors follow a broader trend.

“Almond and coconut are doing well for just about every snack these days,” he says. But despite the promise this new line shows, Chobani’s No. 1 flavor this year is the same as last year’s: strawberry, followed by blueberry, peach and black cherry. To Barry, this comes as no surprise. “Yoplait’s strawberry and strawberry banana were No. 1 forever,” he says.

Chobani, a category captain at Core-Mark that’s been on what Barry calls “a huge winning streak,” has opened the door for Yoplait and other more traditional brands to innovate. Yoplait now offers Plenti, a Greek-yogurt product with whole grains and seeds already mixed throughout. “Even our Yoplait numbers from last year are growing phenomenally,” Barry says. “Chobani has kind of defined the category as something that can sell, something people are interested in eating.”