Speaking at the Zenith International Global Dairy Congress in Istanbul last week, Ricardo Travassos, marketing director, Danone Turkey, detailed it and the dairy industry's efforts to innovate in the country's large but old-fashioned yogurt market.
“Here in Turkey, we say that yogurt was invented by the Turkish people,” said Travassos.
Per capita consumption of yogurt in Turkey is the largest in the world at around 30kg - compared to between 20kg and 30kg in France and Spain, and less than 10kg in Brazil and the US.
Around 70% of all yogurt consumed in Turkey is, however, as part of a meal, he said.
“But the thing is that yogurt is used more than consumed in Turkey. It is used as an ingredient and as a food compliment.”
Despite its traditional use, Danone Turkey believes there is room for innovation in the yogurt sector.
“When you look at Turkey, you see a country that is modern when you look at Istanbul and country that is traditional when you look at the country," said Travassos.
“As yogurt has been here for 1,200 years we should look 10 years down the road. I see an opportunity for yogurt to be reinvented.”
While the country boasts a high overall consumption rate, around only 25% of the yogurt in Turkey is produced industrially.
Half is homemade and the remaining quarter is produced for sale at street level.
Innovation in the Turkish dairy industry is also relatively slow paced, Travassos claimed. New products accounted for less than 5% of market sales between 2008 and 2013, he said during his presentation, From Birthplace of Yogurt to Innovation Today.
Despite this relatively slow uptake of new products, demand for modern yogurt products is in fact experiencing higher growth than traditional yogurt, he said.
“Modern dairy consumption is extremely small in Turkey yet when you look at the CAGR modern dairy is growing more than traditional dairy."
“This means some consumers are willing to pay more for additional benefits.”
Healthy and playful
Hoping to build on this foundation, Danone Turkey is targeting young children and tweens (children between the age of 10 and 12) because “it is easier to change the habits of people that are young."
With products like its Danino brand drinking yogurt, Danone Turkey aims to “appeal to the mother because it is healthy and to the child because it is playful.”
Meanwhile, tweens “are all about Spiderman and other kinds of characters."
“Tweens are all about pester power," he said.
Alongside its focus on school-age children, Danone Turkey is also seeking “new moments of consumption” among on-the-go and health conscious adult consumers.
During his presentation, Travassos pinpointed two lifestyle products - its Activia brand yogurt drink, presented in a takeaway coffee-style cup, for on-the-go consumption, and its Activia brand Time for Breakfast yogurt and cereal pots.
“People need yogurt for different reasons," said Travassos. "There is a quite a lot of awareness about healthiness.”
Referring back to Turkey’s 30kg per capita yogurt consumption, Travassos added: “This can go much higher.”