Commentary

Is Diversity A Bane Or Boom For The Yogurt Culture?

There’s no dispute about the proliferation of sundry and various yogurts on the shelves of American supermarkets since Chobani introduced consumers to Greek yogurt a dozen years ago. Whether all those varieties are so confusing to consumers that the category is in decline, or whether they indicate that the sector is poised to take another leap over the next five years, depends on which research report you read.

“The average U.S. supermarket carries 306 different yogurt varieties, according to brand sales and marketing agency Acosta, up 4% since 2015. Overall yogurt sales fell 6% by volume in the year through February, Nielsen data shows. Sales of Greek yogurt, which kick-started the category’s explosive growth, fell 11%,” reports Heather Haddon in the Wall Street Journal.

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“Total U.S. retail sales were $8.8 billion in 2017, up from $8 billion five years earlier, according to the market research firm Packaged Facts. It is forecast to leap to $9.8 billion by 2022,” writes Zlati Meyer for USA Today

It should be noted that the Packaged Facts report was released in January 2018. And much of its optimism is based on yogurt’s ongoing transition from a healthy breakfast to a good-for-you snack to nosh on any time of the day or night.

One thing that’s not in dispute is the increasing variety of yogurts, including plant-based versions.

“Yogurt wends its way from bowel-inspiring Activia and kids' GoGurt tubes to bifurcated mix-in versions and premium dessert-esque Liberté. Yogurt serves as the base for ready-to-drink shakes, freezes into faux ice creams and stands in as a savory replacement for sour cream,” Meyer writes.

“There is French-style yogurt, such as Yoplait’s glass-potted Oui, launched in the summer of 2017; Icelandic yogurt, such as Icelandic Provisions’ Skyr and siggi’s, which global dairy giant Lactalis bought in January; and even Australian yogurt -- spelled with an H tucked between the G and the U — as fronted by noosa. Expect more change,” she adds.

But “the changes have left some consumers confused. U.S. yogurt sales have fallen in each of the past two years after a decade of growth, according to Euromonitor International, a market-research firm,” the WSJ’s Haddon reports.

“‘I don’t even know what I’m looking for most of the time,’ said Sara Gray, a 47-year-old teacher and mother in McKinney, Texas. She said she was stumped by the blizzard of yogurts that confronted her at her local Kroger Co. store.”

“Can I just get some strawberry?” Gray asks Haddon.

Noting the disparate forecasts, Eater’s Brenna Houck points out: “The yogurt wonk data have produced a mixed response from yogurt companies (sometimes even from the same person). In one interview, Greek yogurt giant Chobani’s chief marketing officer Peter McGuinness tried do damage control by characterizing the drop in yogurt sales as a ‘natural progression of a maturing category.’ He even wishfully speculated that sales for yogurt could someday reach $13 billion. 

“In a separate statement, however, McGuinness seemed to acknowledge that yogurt companies had essentially created their own problem by clobbering customers with way too many yogurt options at once,” Houck adds. “‘It’s self-inflicted,’ he says. One marketing agency, Acosta, reported that there are a staggering 306 different types of yogurt at the average grocery store.”

Meanwhile, “the dairy-free yogurt market is expected to rise to $7.4 billion by 2027, according to a new report by market research firm Future Market Insights (FMI). The report predicts that the global non-dairy yogurt market increase by a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 4.9% from 2017 to 2027, largely due to the growing population of health-conscious millennials,” Symphony Barnes writes for Veg News, citing a study released last April.

“Plant-based products are one of the ideal products” millennials “desire,” according to FMI.

As if all those choices aren’t enough for an overwhelmed palate, in the Lincoln Journal Star, Lynne Ireland has put together a Beets and Pistachio Yogurt recipe. The biggest challenge may be to find a container of “plain whole-milk Greek yogurt” nestled among such frozen options as Pineapple Upside Down Cake and Maple Bacon Donut.

2 comments about "Is Diversity A Bane Or Boom For The Yogurt Culture?".
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  1. pj bednarski from MediaPost.com, April 10, 2019 at 2:42 p.m.

    The types are yogurt are diverse. The color schemes and graphics are not. A very long time ago, Dean Foods entered the yogurt market and put it in black containers. Unheard of!  It really popped in the refrigerator case and Dean did well with it. Somebody should resurrect that idea. (With 306 different types in stores, maybe somebody already has.)

  2. PJ Lehrer from NYU, April 17, 2019 at 9:21 a.m.

    This article actually mentions several reasons why yogurt sales might be down.  I'm going with trendy people have moved on...

    http://pjlehrer.blogspot.com/2019/04/why-are-yogurt-sales-down.html

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