Chobani helped make Greek yogurt a household staple for millions of Americans. Now, the dairy giant is turning to the probiotics segment, which is already in high demand during the pandemic as shoppers seek out immunity-boosting offerings.
The company is rolling out this month Chobani Probiotic Cups in blueberry, vanilla, strawberry and peach flavors, and yogurt drinks in raspberry acai, blueberry pomegranate and passion orange guava. Chobani also is expanding in the kids space with Little Chobani Probiotics that will be available in pouches and drinks.
Chobani is no stranger to probiotics, but until recently hasn't done much to publicize its activity in the segment. Its popular Greek yogurts, which have been on the market since 2008, contain billions of probiotics per serving. Last summer, the company introduced plant-based drinks called Chobani Probiotics with flavors such as pineapple turmeric and peach mint. It also debuted Chobani Complete, a product line that contains high amounts of probiotics, but is largely geared to consumers interested in consuming more protein.
"Our hope is that we're bringing more people into the yogurt category," said Peter McGuinness, president of Chobani. "As we build that yogurt portfolio, I want to make sure we're answering all the needs out there."
Chobani has spent several years working to understand the impact probiotics have on human health, he said. The yogurt maker's goal is to change how people use the microorganism. Instead of taking probiotics for a specific problem, people could consume them for several preventative reasons such as boosting their immune system, helping with digestion and improving gut health.
Chobani Probiotic, which contains a mix of four probiotics, is designed for millennials and Gen Zers who may not know much about the microorganism but want to include more of it in their diet. It would compete against Danone's Activia brand, which is often associated with an older demographic, Chobani said. One thing conspicuously missing from Chobani Probiotic's marketing: the fact that it's a Greek yogurt.
"Our hope is that we're bringing more people into the yogurt category. As we build that yogurt portfolio, I want to make sure we're answering all the needs out there."
McGuinness said Chobani wanted to market the new cups and drinks as a product that shoppers would turn to explicitly because they are interested in consuming more probiotics. The fact that the yogurt is Greek-style "is implicit" because Chobani is synonymous with the category already, he said.
A 2019 study by U.S. and European researchers found probiotic consumption can reduce flu-like sickness, which results in the need for 2.2 million fewer antibiotic prescriptions, more than 54 million fewer sick days annually and averting $919 million in productivity losses each year.
Probiotics are being incorporated in other yogurt products, and they're appearing in Kellogg's Special K Nourish line, as well as in tea, coffee, baked goods, ice cream, granola and bars. General Mills partnered last year with GoodBelly on a probiotic-infused cereal.
The probiotics market has been popular for years, but these and other functional ingredients have gained momentum during the pandemic as consumers look to eat healthier and keep a closer watch on what goes into their bodies. According to a survey cited by Chobani, 60% of consumers say supporting their immune system will continue to be important after the coronavirus has abated. Chobani started working on its Chobani Probiotic Cups and Drinks about 18 months ago, well before the pandemic took hold.
"It's more serendipitous that these have immune-boosting ability now that that's on people's minds," McGuinness said.
BCC Research projected in January that the probiotics market should reach $69.1 billion by 2024 from $48.4 billion in 2019, a compound annual growth rate of 7.4% for the forecast period of 2019 to 2024.
Chobani has come to dominate the yogurt scene with its popular Greek variety — now the biggest subset in the broader $7.7 billion yogurt category, according to Nielsen. While the segment remains far and away the biggest revenue generator for the New York dairy company, Chobani has moved aggressively in recent years to innovate in yogurt by expanding the reasons why consumers would want to eat it.
Chobani has rolled out yogurts blended with nut butters, a children's yogurt, a variety made from plants, a lactose-free Greek yogurt, products made with oats, and its first foray into milks and creamers.
Chobani expanded further into oats on Thursday with Chobani Oat Zero Sugar, a drink that taps into consumers' growing interest in cutting consumption of the sweetener. One common factor in all these extensions: The company purposely included the Chobani name in the product offerings, a factor rooted in the positive perception people have over the brand name and its quality, McGuinness said.
The new children's line marks a shift for Chobani in kids yogurt. The dairy company's first aggressive push into children's yogurt came in 2018 with Chobani Gimmies, which have a range of child-friendly flavors such as Poppin’ Cotton Candy, Best Birthday Ever and Ooey Gooey S’More. Cartoon characters adorn the products.
Instead of creative names and cartoon drawings, the Little Chobani Probiotics drinks and pouches will have more traditional packaging that touts the probiotics and their benefit to immunity and tummy health — a message more aligned with Chobani's focus on better-for-you food. The design is geared to resonate with parents who will buy the products for their children.
McGuinness said Chobani currently plans to keep Chobani Gimmies on the market, along with Little Chobani Probiotics. "Fow now we are. It may migrate out," he said. "We'll see how they do."