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Americans turn to drinkable yogurt to satisfy their hunger for innovation in cultured dairy

Mary Ellen Shoup

By Mary Ellen Shoup+

11-Oct-2016
Last updated on 12-Oct-2016 at 11:06 GMT2016-10-12T11:06:15Z

The growth of yogurt drinks will continue to rise, according to Mintel research. ©iStock/OcusFocus
The growth of yogurt drinks will continue to rise, according to Mintel research. ©iStock/OcusFocus

Sales of drinkable yogurt have grown 62% in the past five years, reaching $893m in 2016, marking the second consecutive year of double-digit gains, according to recent Mintel research.

Yogurt drinks include all refrigerated yogurt products in a liquid, drinkable form. These products may include fruit or fruit flavoring; including yogurt “smoothies,” kefir, lassi, etc.

Spoonable yogurt still dominates

Valued at $8.3bn, spoonable yogurt still accounts for the majority of yogurt sector sales, and is projected to steadily grow to hit $10bn in sales by 2021.

In terms of overall sales, the market for yogurt and yogurt drinks is forecast to grow 3% in 2016 to reach $9.1bn, with total sales expected to reach $11.4bn in 2021. Today, roughly 66% of US adults purchase spoonable yogurt, while 30% purchase yogurt drinks.

Greek yogurt popularity fades

Greek yogurt has been known as the darling of the sector, but innovation of the once exotic cultured food is slowing down as consumers crave innovation.

Several companies have introduced their take on drinkable yogurt including to complement their existing spoonable Greek yogurt products such as Borden Dairy’s recent addition of drinkable yogurt products under the LALA brand in July 2016.

“While boom times ushered in by the novelty of Greek yogurt are fading, the yogurt category’s draw of convenient health, and the recent expansion of flavors and formats, helps retain interest and preserve participation in the market. Yogurt drinks are becoming increasingly popular among US consumers, and as adoption of the yogurt drinks segment grows, so too does innovation,” said Beth Bloom, senior analyst, US Food & Drink at Mintel.

“It’s one of the few food and drink spaces where launch activity sees brand-new products outpacing simple variations on form.”

From breakfast to snacking

When it comes to eating occasions, an overwhelming number of yogurt/yogurt drink consumers (93%) have it for breakfast.

However, the yogurt market appears to be gaining ground in the snacking arena with one in 10 yogurt/yogurt drink users saying that they consume these products as a snack. The format of yogurt beverages also lends itself to convenience, fitting into the on-the-go lifestyle of many consumers.

Mintel research reveals that more consumers are choosing yogurt as a snack today than in previous years as 84% choose yogurt as a morning or afternoon snack (respectively), up from 37% who chose it as a morning snack and 41% who snacked in the afternoon in 2014.

“A growing acceptance of yogurt as a snack creates huge opportunity for the market considering the importance of snacking in US diets. As a result, we’re seeing product innovation expand to include formats that fit non-breakfast occasions, including savory and satiating varieties,” Bloom said.

Health is primary purchase motivator

Well-being is a strong motivator in yogurt product purchases, and most US consumers seem to be aware of the digestive benefits associated with cultured foods like yogurt.

According to Mintel’s research, 43% of US yogurt consumers are buying the cultured product for digestive health reasons.

The growing acceptance of certain fats in foods has led to the rise in popularity of full-fat yogurt products, as consumers perceive low-fat yogurt as outdated “diet food.”

“Full-fat varieties are seeing strong sales growth at natural channels, while non-fat options struggle, pointing to a growing acceptance of fat in food. As consumers appear increasingly interested in functional benefits from their food and drinks, communicating how yogurt and yogurt drinks can contribute to these health needs will be a means of standing apart from the crowd,” Bloom added.

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