Speaking with DairyReporter, Siggi Hilmarsson, founder and CEO of Siggi’s, said he is unconcerned by the increasing availability of 'origin' concepts like Greek, Australian and Asian yogurt in the US.
“I think it helps to expand the category,” he said. “The more options there are the more adventurous people become.”
“I don’t think we’ve seen any cannibalization,” he said, “it’s complimentary.”
“They’re sufficiently different that we’re not appealing to the same consumer.”
In the case of his Icelandic Skyr, US consumers are drawn to the "combination of high protein and not a lot of sugar."
“We have a simple philosophy," he said. "We offer an alternative, with less sugar and no artificial ingredients."
“That’s the biggest appeal we have as a brand. A lot of consumers like that. What we’re about is simple ingredients and not a lot of sugar. That’s not something that is going to go away."
'Classic immigrant story'
Siggi’s was born in Hilmarsson's kitchen in New York in 2004 using a recipe provided by his mother.
“I’m originally from Iceland and I missed Skyr," he said. "I couldn’t find it in America - it’s the classic immigrant story."
"I also found American yogurt too sweet," he added.
In 2005, he quit his job as a management consultant to give the brand his full attention.
By 2008 it had been picked up by Whole Foods Market, and a year later Siggi’s Icelandic Skyr was available across the US. In 2013, it attracted the attention of Swiss dairy Emmi, which acquired a 25% stake in the business.
New York-based Siggi's now boasts a product portfolio that includes plain and flavoured 0% and 2% Skyr and a new 4% offering.
Inspired by an "old school" Icelandic consumption habit, the new 4% Skyr is made using whole milk - as opposed to skim milk - and a "touch of cream."
Just over 10 years on, Siggi's is "one of the fastest growing yogurt brands" in the US, Hilmarsson claims.
“We’re only in the US, but it is interesting that other markets are opening up,” he said.
“Right now, we’re very focused on the US, but we get many requests from Europe and Asia.”
“For us, we’re growing really fast, but we have a lot of ways to go to build our distribution in the US. That’s our primary way to grow."