Kefir was among the top Google searches in 2016.

ARNHEM, THE NETHERLANDS — Kefir has remained a popular beverage in the United States, according to data recently released by the market research firm Innova Market Insights.

Lu Ann Williams, director of innovation for Innova Market Insights

“As interest in fermented dairy products spread in the west alongside the arrival of the so-called functional foods market in the 1990s, kefir started to move out of its home in the Caucasus via limited availability in specialist health food stores in western markets to a more value-added, mainstream positioning, particularly in the U.S.,” said Lu Ann Williams, director of innovation for Innova Market Insights.

The United States accounted for over one-third of global kefir new product launches in 2016, and beverages featuring kefir accounted for 40% of U.S. drinking yogurt beverage introductions overall, according to the market research firm. Europe accounted for much of the remainder of global new product launches featuring kefir.

Data released earlier this year by the International Food Information Council Foundation showed that kefir was among the top Google searches in 2016, signaling an increased interest in foods with health benefits beyond basic nutrition.

Through its research, Innova Market Insights said kefir is heavily promoted based on its health properties. All U.S. and nearly 94% of global new product introductions used some kind of health positioning in 2016. Leading health claims used included digestive health, low fat and reduced sugar.

The number of global introductions positioned on low sugar/no-added-sugar and sugar free claims double in 2016 to feature in 20% of the total, according to Innova Market Insights. Organic and lactose-free variants were also increasingly common among kefir introductions.