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Shaken and Stirred


Sure, Greek yogurt’s had a good run, but nothing lasts forever, so grocers and manufacturers alike are looking ahead to other types of yogurt likely to take off, and coming up with some potential winners.

“It seems like ‘fatphobia’ is slowly dying down, and so we are seeing more interest in full-fat varieties of yogurt, which is fantastic, as these yogurts usually have less sugar and the fat helps facilitate the absorption of the fat-soluble vitamins and phytonutrients,” says Jonathan F. Clinthorne, Ph.D., Nutrition Education Department specialist supervisor at Lakewood, Colo.-based Natural Grocers, which operates 120 stores — and counting — in 19 states.

“It also seems like with the discovery of how nutritious Greek yogurt is, more people are willing to try some atypical varieties of yogurt like Australian or Icelandic styles, or new unique flavors,” he notes. “Yogurt produced from the milk of pasture-based cows also seems to be gaining momentum; we are seeing much more interest in products made from grass-fed animals — likely because it results in a more nutritious product, and, since these animals aren’t being kept in confinement-style dairy operations, products produced in this fashion have major animal welfare implications.”

Adds Clinthorne: “Another big trend in yogurt is inclusion of live- and active-culture varieties.”

As for the kinds of product carried by the chain, “Natural Grocers only sells yogurt from pasture-based dairy,” he explains. “This means that the animals are given the opportunity to graze for the entire grazing season. We do not sell dairy products from confinement dairies, and we don’t allow bovine growth hormones.” In terms of sales, “yogurt and kefir drinks are the fastest-growing subcategory, with approximately 20 percent growth in the past year,” notes Clinthorne. “We’re also seeing an increase in sales for nondairy yogurt products.”

Fat and Flavor City

Many of Clinthorne’s observations are borne out by suppliers on the stirring edge — so to speak — of the yogurt category.

“Full fat is back, and here to stay,” affirms Koel Thomae, co-founder of Bellevue, Colo.-based Noosa Finest Yoghurt, which makes a premium Australian-style product. “As we discover the benefits — and deliciousness — of full-fat dairy, more people are embracing it, which is sparking more full-fat innovation in the category.”

Noosa’s latest innovation, introduced in July, is a line of “sweet heat” products that blends sweet fruits with a kick of heat from a range of peppers. The varieties are Raspberry Habanero, Pineapple Jalapeño, Blackberry Serrano and Mango Sweet Chili, all available in 8-ounce sizes. “These favors were inspired by a taste trek I took across the U.S. and Europe,” recounts Thomae. “I saw and sampled a lot of sweet-and-spicy combinations, and was inspired to try it alongside the creamy, velvety foundation of Noosa.… So far, consumer reactions have been great, and it’s gotten a lot of love from men, who say the flavor has brought them back to the category.” Two further new favors from the company are Mexican Chocolate, in 4-ounce 4-packs, and 8-ounce Bhakti Chai Noosa. “Mexican chocolate is exciting because it joins salted caramel as one of our only truly indulgent flavors, and people have been asking for chocolate since we started out,” notes Thomae. “Bhakti Chai Noosa came to life as a collaboration between Brook Eddy, a friend of mine and fellow Colorado female entrepreneur and founder of Bhakti Chai. I’m a huge chai drinker, and what better way to pay homage to my favorite drink than to pair it with Noosa?”

Continues Thomae: “The entire category has seen big growth over the past five years as interest in yogurt has grown. The premium yogurt category is driving more than its fair share of growth as consumers look for options outside of just Greek yogurt. Our research has told us that premium shoppers spend more per trip and make more trips per year, resulting in 32 percent greater annual yogurt spend.”

Grazing in the Grass

“Consumers continue to look for yogurt products with enhanced nutritional value,” asserts Nicole Mydy, brand innovation manager at Organic Valley, a La Farge, Wis.-based cooperative of dairy farmers. “Currently, grass-fed organic yogurt is growing 3.6 times faster than organic yogurt without the grass-fed claim,” she adds, citing figures from Schaumburg, Ill.-based SPINS. “Full-fat yogurts are also gaining in popularity with consumers as they become increasingly aware of the benefits of full-fat dairy and migrate away from lower-fat options.”

In September, Organic Valley, which already makes the No. 1-selling and most widely distributed grass-fed multiserve yogurt in mainstream grocery, according to SPINS, will add to its Grassmilk Yogurt line 6-ounce single-serve cups in Vanilla, Plain, Wild Blueberry and Strawberry varieties. “The Wild Blueberry and Strawberry varieties will be fruit on the bottom, and all will be cream-on-top, similar to our original 24-ounce tubs of Grassmilk Yogurt,” notes Mydy.

In promoting the product, the cooperative has concentrated on the stores that stock it. “As Organic Valley Grassmilk yogurt is a new launch in a high-demand category, we have focused our promotional activity at the retail level, driving trial and awareness by supporting the product on shelf, as well as by driving our current Grassmilk milk consumers to these new products made with the same 100 percent grass-fed milk,” says Mydy. “Product acceptance by both our retail accounts and consumers has far exceeded our Year 1 expectations.”

Merchandising, meanwhile, depends on the retailer. “Our in-store merchandising plan is to get these products placed by other super-premium yogurt products, whether organic or conventional,” explains Mydy. “Placement varies across the different retail accounts, with some having dedicated organic and natural sets, while others have highly integrated yogurt sets as part of their mainline dairy coolers. As organic dairy continues to gain momentum and consumer interest, we expect more integration in mainstream grocery.”

Smoothie Sailing

“Greek yogurt was huge and continues to be popular, but the yogurt smoothie category is fast-growing and is shown to be outpacing blended-cup yogurt,” says Desiree Johnson, director of marketing at Dallas-based Lala, a Borden Dairy brand. “This is because yogurt smoothies are a well-rounded product that meets consumers’ three key demands of nutritious, great-tasting and portable. Right now, yogurt smoothies are really on-trend with Millennials especially, who are driving much of the growth in better-for-you snacking because of their desire to eat healthier and find products that are convenient.”

Acting on those insights, Lala has augmented its lineup of on-the-go yogurt smoothies with two new products. Billed as the first-ever portable hunger-curbing yogurt smoothie, Lala Healthies Curb contains 10 grams of protein and 8 grams of whole grain that aim to keep cravings at bay and sustain energy throughout the day. Available in Wild Strawberry, Toasted Pecan and Orange Pineapple flavors, the item comes in 4-packs of 6.7-ounce bottles. The other line, Lala 100 Calorie, offers consumers a portion-controlled, convenient option. Made with real fruit, the product is available in Wild Strawberry, Mountain Blueberry and Cherry Vanilla varieties in 4-packs of 7-ounce bottles.

“We are excited about the growth coming from this segment and encouraged to see other manufacturers jumping in with unique offerings to help expand the drinkable category,” notes Johnson. “As this category expands and consumer interest grows, we believe it will be important for retailers to highlight their drinkable yogurt offerings. Retailers leading the growth in drinkable yogurt are moving towards clearly defined drinkable segments incorporating multiple styles, sizes and brands of adult drinkable yogurt.”

In turn, Lala has evolved the way it merchandises these products. Citing 2015 Simmons Consumer research indicating that among consumers purchasing drinkable yogurt, 36 percent buy only drinkable SKUs, Johnson observes: “These shifts in the marketplace and consumer lifestyles have fueled the need for a different way of looking at the once standard yogurt set. As such, we have partnered with several large chains to implement ‘drinkable only’ sets within their yogurt sections. This began about six months ago and is now in market at some of the major retailers. It truly represents an easy way to attract Millennials and others to the category by highlighting drinkables with their consumer benefit of ‘hyperconvenience.’”

Endless Opportunities

All of these emerging trends in the aftermath of Greek embody consumers’ desire to get more out of their yogurt products.

“As the knowledge pool about the benefits of probiotics continues to grow, interest in utilizing yogurt as a functional food should drive sales,” predicts Natural Grocers’ Clinthorne. “It will be exciting to see what new types of probiotics are discovered and incorporated into different yogurts to make them supportive of different aspects of health.”

“Yogurt consumers will continue to demand elevated nutrition from their yogurt, whether it’s in the form of 100 percent grass-fed dairy, full fat, minimal processing, specialized probiotics/ gut health or high protein levels,” agrees Organic Valley’s Mydy. “We also anticipate yogurt usage occasions will continue to broaden beyond breakfast, as it quickly becomes one of the top foods consumed during snacking occasions.”

This multi-daypart view is shared by Noosa’s Thomae, who enthuses, “As people look to yogurt as a snack, dessert, and even as a marinade or sauce, the flavor opportunities are endless!”

Perhaps Johnson puts it best, however, noting that further success in the category “means continuing to deliver [at] the intersection of good-for-you, convenience and taste.”

“With the discovery of how nutritious Greek yogurt is, more people are willing to try some atypical varieties of yogurt like Australian or Icelandic styles, or new unique flavors.”
–Jonathan F. Clinthorne, Natural Grocers

“Right now, yogurt smoothies are really on-trend with Millennial especially who are driving much of the growth in better-for-you snacking because of their desire to eat healthier and find products that are convenient.”
–Desiree Johnson, Lala

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