KANSAS CITY — With Greek yogurt capturing a third of U.S. yogurt sales in 2012, it’s no wonder more companies are looking to spoon up some of that success in their pipelines.
Branded by buzzwords “protein” and “probiotics,” recent product rollouts reflect a desire to emulate the popular treat’s health halo and indulgently thick texture.
An example is elli Quark, a soft, creamy cheese set to debut in the United States this year.
“Like Greek yogurt, elli Quark has a thick and creamy texture and a comparable level of protein,” said Preya Patel Bhakta, president and founder of elli. “We realized in order for American consumers to get acquainted with this new product, it would be best to package it in a format familiar to them, so we are introducing our first product line in familiar flavors such as lemon, strawberry and plain.”
This year’s dairy-case debuts also include The Greek Gods Kefir, described by parent company Hain Celestial Group, Inc. as a drinkable format with “all of the qualities that customers expect from The Greek Gods brand Greek-style yogurt.” Stonyfield’s January launch of its fruit-blended yogurt line likens the product’s thick and creamy texture to that of Greek yogurt, although the yogurt is not strained in the Greek style.
The yogurt aisle these days is as rich and cultured as the product itself, containing Bavarian-, New Zealand- and Swiss-style varieties. Noosa Finest Yoghurt recently added a passion fruit flavor to its line of Australian-style, honey-sweetened yogurt, billed on the company’s web site as a product that takes “a page from the Greeks … with their famously rich yoghurt.”
“Yogurt has been remarkable in what it says about us,” said Harry Balzer, chief analyst for the NPD Group. “Whether it’s probiotics or a way to have your key lime pie, yogurt has segmented itself in a number of ways.”
One in three Americans eats yogurt, said the NPD Group, Rosemont, Ill., as consumption occasions for the staple have grown to include meals, snacks and dessert.
“No other food has increased more over the last 10 years,” Mr. Balzer said. “Yogurt has moved into main dish, side dish, snack, and it’s a cheaper protein source than meat. This is a food that saves time and money and has a halo of health.”
This month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced it will offer Greek yogurt as a healthy protein source in New York school meal programs under a pilot program that may expand nationally if successful.
The news could bode well for yogurt makers, who are steadily churning out new opportunities and innovations for consumers across demographics. Yoplait targeted tweens with its January introduction of Pro-Force Greek yogurt, and Chobani, Inc. rolled out Chobani Champions Greek yogurt in squeezable tubes for children, in addition to its Bites line of snack-size Greek yogurt and Flips Greek yogurt parfaits.
Meanwhile, different formats of Greek yogurt emerge in a growing list of products that includes Greek yogurt spreads, dips, smoothies and granola bars with Greek yogurt coating. This year’s launches include Yasso’s extension of frozen Greek yogurt bars, YoCrunch’s Yopa! line of Greek yogurt parfaits and Post Foods’ introduction of Honey Bunches of Oats Greek Honey Crunch cereal, containing Greek yogurt-coated granola clusters.“There’s an explosion of different opportunities this product can satisfy,” Mr. Balzer said. “All of it, playing off of a platform of health.”