Greek Bearing Gifts

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Greek Bearing Gifts

By Bridget Goldschmidt, EnsembleIQ - 08/11/2015

At Chandler, Ariz.-based Bashas’, a particular type of yogurt has become the go-to product for a particular type of consumer.

“Greek yogurt is now considered the healthy alternative in the yogurt category,” says Don Grace, Bashas’ dairy buyer, who has worked at the company for more than 35 years, and so has seen his share of trends in the department. “This has caused an influx of Greek yogurt into many other products,” as well as many new SKUs in the Greek and other yogurt segments.

So many, in fact, that Grace believes they’re negatively affecting the category. “Yogurt sales have been flat so far this year,” he observes. “The major companies have introduced so many new products that it has saturated the market.” Among these recent introductions in the Greek segment, Grace cites items with “added grains, nuts, seeds and fruits.” With such an influx of new offerings, differentiation becomes vital.

In the Mix

General Mills believes its Yoplait Plenti line will be just such a game changer. The Minneapolis-based company’s new line “combines Greek yogurt with whole grain oats, flax and pumpkin seeds for hearty, protein-packed yogurt.” Containing 12 grams of protein in each cup, Yoplait Plenti comes in eight flavors. Similarly, leading Greek yogurt producer Chobani, based in Norwich, N.Y., has added two new flavors, Raisin Brown Sugar and Peach, to its Greek Yogurt Oats line, which features an Ancient Grain Blend of steel-cut oats, quinoa, chia, buckwheat and amaranth, mixed with real fruit.

Chobani has also introduced three new flavors to its Flip line featuring “exciting, inspired, natural mix-ins” — Coffee Break Bliss, Peanut Butter Dream and Limited Batch Strawberry Summer Crisp — along with convenient 4-packs for the line’s top two flavors, Almond Coco Loco and Key Lime Crumble. In June, the company promoted the line, sold in packaging that enables consumers to “flip” the product’s toppings into the yogurt, as an afternoon snack for “National Break You Make Day,” which it describes as “a celebration for finding small moments of enjoyment each day.”

The brand’s other recent rollouts include Chobani Kids Greek Yogurt Pouches Featuring Disney’s Doc McStuffins and Chobani Kids Greek Yogurt Mixed Berry Tubes; two Limited Batch flavors, Plum and the returning Watermelon, available through August; and additional SKUs in its Simply 100 and Indulgent lines, the latter of which, launched last year, is the company’s first dessert product.

Chobani has also debuted revamped packaging that highlights core attributes of each of its products, including natural, non-GMO ingredients, and less sugar than regular fruit yogurt for its traditional and Simply 100 lines.

According to Peter McGuinness, Chobani’s chief marketing officer, “This year, we’ve really pushed the boundaries of Greek yogurt as we continue making products that give our fans better options throughout the day, and we’ve been especially blown away by the love for our Flip products.”

Healthy Spoonfuls

Beyond jazzing it up with extra ingredients, manufacturers are finding other ways to innovate with Greek yogurt. As Bashas’ Grace points out, the item’s healthy halo is a definite draw.

“American shoppers are keenly interested in protein and finding new ways to incorporate it into their diet, and Greek yogurt is an excellent source of protein,” asserts Michael Neuwirth, senior director of public relations at The Dannon Co., in White Plains, N.Y. “Greek yogurt is also a very different eating experience than traditional yogurt, because Greek yogurt is so much more creamy and thick. Additionally, Greek yogurt is an excellent substitute for less healthful ingredients, whether that be a dessert, a dip or a marinade.”

“The widespread health benefits, specifically in regards to protein, were a big driver of the trend toward Greek yogurt,” concurs Koel Thomae, co-founder of Noosa Yoghurt, a Bellvue, Colo.-based maker of Australian-style yogurt.

To that end, Dannon has focused on the nutritive value of its Greek lines. “New product offerings, such as Dannon Oikos Triple Zero, as well as existing products, such as … Light & Fit Greek, have performed very well because they address needs that really aren’t met by any other yogurt maker,” explains Neuwirth. Triple Zero “packs in 15 grams of protein with zero added sugar, zero artificial sweeteners and zero fat,” according to the company, while Light & Fit Greek, containing just 80 calories per 5.3-ounce serving, but twice the protein of regular nonfat yogurt, recently ran a Great Greek Flavor Search contest, in which the winner, submitted by a Boston-area preschool teacher, was Tiramisu.

Stirring Up Sales

Asked about marketing and merchandising, Neuwirth replies: “Yogurt promotion in store performs best in incremental sales lifts when feature and display are combined. Thematic promotion also is quite effective.” For instance, Dannon ran in-store Triple Zero demos through its Snack Like a Pro promotion, which included Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton as celebrity spokesman; the line also scored an endorsement as the Official Yogurt of the NFL.

“We have found that when new yogurt products are introduced, the best method to excite customers is to sample the products,” agrees Grace, adding that they should be “displayed with a hot introductory price.”

He continues: “We believe that promoting yogurt products with ads and temporary price reductions is the best way to get the attention of our customers. Most of the yogurt products are displayed in the dairy cases, but when space is available, we use ends and spot displays.”

Noted Chobani’s McGuinness at the start of 2015: “Our marketing in the coming year will focus especially on driving trial and raising awareness, including national campaigns, event marketing and sampling programs that introduce even more people to our products and the category.”

Whither Yogurt?

The next big thing in the yogurt category is still an open question. Grace thinks offerings like Chobani Indulgent or Müller Yogurt’s brand-new line of Dessert Inspired varieties will grow in popularity. “The strategy is to have yogurt as an all-around product, not just something for breakfast,” he says of an item that’s currently being touted as an anytime snack. Neuwirth believes “it’s possible that savory may be a trend … to watch”; Pocantico Hills, N.Y.-based Blue Hill has already begun catering to this taste preference with its Beet, Butternut Squash, Tomato and Carrot yogurts.

The category’s next geographical hot spot could well be Down Under. “Greek yogurt spurred a change in the category toward a richer and creamier yogurt, opening up an opportunity for Noosa to be the perfect intersection between Greek and traditional varieties,” Thomae says of her company’s full-fat dairy products, growing consumer demand for which “has resulted in great product performance for” the company, she adds. Noosa has introduced two new flavors — Vanilla and Cranberry Apple — and is relaunching its Pumpkin variety nationally in 8-ounce and 4-ounce 4-packs.

“Each new product stems from a different food trend or favor inspiration,” explains Thomae. “For example, while the relaunch of Pumpkin results directly from the product’s success when it was … in Target stores last year, the Cranberry Apple launch was because we wanted to make another classic fall favor that paired perfectly with our yogurt.”

“Greek yogurt is now considered the healthy alternative in the yogurt category.”
—Don Grace, Bashas’

“This year, we’ve really pushed the boundaries of Greek yogurt as we continue making products that give our fans better options throughout the day.”
—Peter McGuinness, Chobani