In recent years, Greek yogurt sales have gone from small change, accounting for around 1% of US yogurt sales in 2007, to big money. The segment, dominated by the likes of Chobani, Yoplait, and Dannon, now accounts for more than a third of all yogurts sold in America.
Speaking with DairyReporter.com, Roy Riley, US marketing director for cultures and enzymes at Chr Hansen, said that while other dairy products will struggle to live up to the Greek yogurt legacy, they can build on the foundation it has set.
“It is difficult to imagine anything living up to Greek yogurt,” said Riley. “Greek yogurt took control of market already experiencing very strong growth. It capitalized on that existing growth. It is hard to imagine anything within our lifetime that will measure up to Greek yogurt.”
“But, Greek yogurt has opened up the market for the launch of other similar products,” he said.
What is the next Greek yogurt?
On the back of this unexpected growth in consumer demand for Greek yogurt, ingredients supplier Chr Hansen has been flooded with requests for assistance from US dairy processors, said Riley.
“We have been doing more and more work with customers to find the next Greek yogurt,” he said.
“Manufacturers are looking to differentiate, especially the latecomers to Greek yogurt category,” said Riley. “I think that with new products, you need to differentiate either with flavour or functionality.”
“And other manufacturers are looking for the next big hit.”
Alongside kefir and drinking yogurt, Riley identified quark, a high-protein, low-fat dairy product originating in Eastern Europe, as a leading contender.
“Quark is relatively popular abroad, but not in the US,” said Riley. “There has been no major launch of a quark product in the US yet. Quark carries the same message as Greek yogurt, it has a similar nutritional profile and a good flavour, but consumes haven’t jumped on it yet.”
Crystal ball gazing
And as a result of their efforts to challenge established Greek yogurt heavyweights, the US dairy industry is keeping Chr Hansen pretty busy, Riley added.
“There has been a lot of activity recently."
“In some cases, we will go to dairies where they will give us their ideas and show us their prototypes, which we will then discuss and narrow down. We then develop these ideas, then go back to the customer for a final review of the best concepts."
“They are certainly keeping us on our toes,” said Riley. "We’re just trying to stay ahead. Crystal ball gazing can be pretty tough at times.”
Healthy & Functional Dairy 2013
On 12 December 2013, DairyReporter.com and NutraIngredients.com will host Healthy and Functional Dairy 2013 - a free online event that will explore the factors currently driving consumer demand for products such as Greek yogurt and protein-enriched milk drinks.
The one-day event will include webinars from Euromonitor, NIZO Food Research, Fonterra, Roquette, Arla Foods Ingredients, and a roundtable discussion featuring Fonterra, the Healthy Marketing Team and Powerful Yogurt.
To register and attend for free, click here .