DUIVEN, THE NETHERLANDS – New product development in Greek yogurt and Greek-style yogurts comprised nearly 8% of global yogurt introductions during the 12-month period between June 2011 and June 2012, according to the market research firm Innova Market Insights. The trend started in North America and has the most significant impact in that region of the world.

Introductions of Greek and Greek-style yogurts in the United States made up 29% of the sector’s new product development efforts. The U.S. numbers compared with more modest but still significant levels of over 15% in Australasia and nearly 10% in Western Europe. Continuing growth for the product has been attributed to its health qualities, combined with its thick and creamy texture.

As competition has increased, the market has seen an increasing range of formats and flavor options. New products tend to feature probiotics and to come in a range of fat contents, commonly featuring whole milk, 2% fat milk and non-fat milk varieties. Traditional plain and honey flavor profiles have been joined by a range of fruit and other flavor options, including lines giving an American spin with the use of U.S.-centric flavors, such as blueberry and key lime pie.

Fage Dairy Industry SA, Athens, Greece, pioneered the market with its Total brand of products, which are available in many international markets. But there have been many market entrants, both branded and private label, as well as rising levels of new product activity. In the United States, for example, Chobani, Inc., New Berlin, N.Y., leads the market, but it faces competition from Greek brands from established yogurt market leaders, including Groupe Danone’s Dannon business unit and its Oikos brand as well as General Mill’s Yoplait Greek and Greek options in many existing ranges. Most recently, Yoplait Greek was extended with the introduction of a fat-free 100-calorie option under the Yoplait Greek 100 name.

Chobani, having found success in the United States, arrived in the United Kingdom this autumn positioned as a fat-free Greek yogurt. The brand’s introduction closely followed the launch of fat-free Greek-style yogurts under the Weight Watchers brand. Also due to follow later in 2012 is another range from the United States, with Hain Celestial, Melville, N.Y., set to introduce its Greek Gods brand, positioned as an indulgent premium dessert. Retailer brands in the United Kingdom are also highly active, according to Innova Market Insights.

The success of Greek yogurts has led to interest moving to other sectors of the market, most notably to frozen yogurt. In the United States, with its highly developed frozen yogurt market, Greek-style launches have increased over the past few months and have included some well-known brands, including a frozen version of the Stonyfield Oikos organic brand from Dannon, frozen Greek yogurt options from YoCrunch, Greek-style frozen yogurt products from premium ice cream maker Ben & Jerry’s, a Unilever brand, and, most recently, as part of Yoplait’s first U.S. frozen yogurt range, which includes both original and Greek-Style options.

Despite the rapid growth, LuAnn Williams, research manager for Innova Market Insights, said she believes there is more room for Greek yogurt growth in the marketplace.

“The healthy yet indulgent image of the products offers consumers an affordable everyday treat option, with the additional bonus of a healthy, natural image,” she said.