Greek Yogurt Gives Way To 'Third Wave' Of Consumer Choices

Yogurt has become one of the more confusing grocery sections over the past five years. Some estimates cite more than 300 variations of a product traditionally derived from the bacterial fermentation of milk.

Much of the ongoing disruption in the category — particularly the ever-declining Greek yogurt segment — stems from a myriad of consumer options and related price competition. Add to that the rise of drinkable products and snackable yogurt mixed with nuts, chia seeds and anything that fits into a small container and you have choice overload.

From an overall consumption standpoint, there are bright spots in certain age cohorts, according to data from MRI-Simmons, which groups yogurt and smoothies together in its national survey of adults 18+.

From spring 2010 to spring 2019, consumption of yogurt/smoothies declined to 52% from 57.7% among all adults. However, during the same period, it rose 21% among people ages 25-34 and 17% in the 65+ bracket. The biggest decline (18%) was in the 45-54 cohort.

Other noteworthy 10-year trends are drops in the consumption of light/sugar-free yogurt (12%), low-fat (8%) and non-fat (14%). Regular yogurt increased by 32%.

Few companies have been buffeted by these changes as hard as Danone, whose third-quarter sales of dairy yogurt in the United States “declined with a deteriorating price/mix, reflecting competitiveness in the category … penalized by the Greek and conventional segments,” CFO Cécile Cabanis told investors last week.

According to the MRI-Simmons data, Chobani (33.2% of consumption) and Dannon (32.7%) far outsell all other brands.

Sales of “spoonable” yogurt, particularly the Greek variety, have been in decline since 2015, notes Marie Gorman, associate account planner at food and beverage agency Quench.

“In the yogurt space, we’re seeing this popularity in what I refer to as third-wave products, which often include products that are higher in fat,” Gorman says.

In early 2019, Danone introduced a Greek low-fat yogurt branded Two Good containing 85% less milk-derived sugar than average yogurts. Addressing investors recently, Cabanis said Two Good has “registered outstanding velocities and repeat rate.”

In addition to Two Good, Danone brought to market Good Plants, a plant-based yogurt alternative with 40% fewer calories and 70% less sugar than other almond-milk yogurt products. It’s part of the company’s Light & Fit line.

Other notable launches include Rise from Slingshot Foods, consisting of yogurt, toasted almonds, rolled oats and chia seeds, and General Mills’ Oui by Yoplait, which was designated by research provider IRI as one of 10 food and beverage new product pacesetters of 2018 in May.

“Consumers aren’t necessarily adding to their yogurt consumption. Instead, they’re switching from one brand to another. It’s a crowded space and becoming more so by the day,” Gorman says.

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