How Greek yogurt's invasion is altering the food industry
The Greek yogurt craze has turned from fad to mainstay in the breakfast food industry, and everyone from yogurt and cereal industry players to the U.S. government have taken notice.
General Mills’ Yoplait brand, an industry leader, sees the value in Greek yogurt and has been working to expand that side of its product selection.
“We are looking at all the food content we have that can come with Greek yogurt recipes and different ways to demonstrate its versatility as opposed to just thinking about it as something to have in the morning for breakfast or mid-morning snack,” Yoplait marketing manager Susan Pitt said. “There’s all times of day you can use it as well as all things you can add to it and experiences you can create that just enhance the flavor and make it a little bit more fun.”
While Greek yogurt is still catching on as something to eat anytime of day, there’s no denying that the product has cemented itself in the minds of certain breakfast-hungry consumers. Is Greek yogurt becoming not just a mainstay but a majority of breakfast choices for consumers? What will other breakfast foods, including traditional yogurt, do to compete?
Greek yogurt hits the books
A recent win for Greek yogurt producers, the U.S. Department of Agriculture approved Greek yogurt for school lunch programs after a 12-state pilot program featuring Chobani, the Greek yogurt industry leader. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) believes this inclusion will boost demand for the product throughout the country while also enabling Greek yogurt to make its mark on healthy lunch options for kids.
For Greek yogurt companies, the opportunity couldn’t be better. If these companies can get their Greek yogurt products in front of children and those kids enjoy eating them, this could mean hooking lifelong customers from a young age. Nostalgia often plays a huge role in foods people eat even as adults. Greek yogurt’s approval for school lunches could go far beyond the increases in sales just by the schools purchasing the yogurt for their students.
If you can’t eat ‘em, join ‘em
What has made some of the most noise surrounding Greek yogurt is its potential effects on the cereal industry, which has seen consistent decline the past several years. Annual industry sales fell from nearly $14 billion in 2000 to about $10 billion in 2013. Those sales are predicted to continue to drop through at least 2019. Greek yogurt, as it is deemed to be a healthier option, is one culprit in cereal’s recent downfall.
Instead of being deadlocked in a war, could cereal and Greek yogurt find a way to come together to make an infused breakfast meal complete with the deliciousness and health benefits of both? Post Holdings, Inc., for example, offers Honey Bunches of Oats Greek Honey Crunch which brings together Greek yogurt and whole grains in a familiar cereal brand.
Kellogg and General Mills' Yoplait have taken the opposite approach and bring the cereal in as mix-ins for individual packs of Greek yogurt. Kellogg has partnered with YoCrunch to create the YoCrunch Cereal Bowl line, which includes Greek yogurt varieties. Yoplait is introducing its new product Plenti, which is Greek yogurt that incorporates whole grain oats, flax, and pumpkin seeds—ingredients you might find in a healthier cereal brand like Kashi.
“It’s a different way to think about it—Greek yogurt and cereal as a great combination,” said Pitt. “Greek yogurt is versatile, cereal is versatile, there are great results we see when we combine the two.”
Can non-Greek yogurt still compete?
Even regular yogurt has to keep up with the Greek yogurt craze. Greek made up nearly half of the U.S. yogurt market as of one year ago with Chobani at the helm thanks to its 35% market share. Greek yogurt is said to have more health benefits, which Chobani has recently capitalized on with a new marketing campaign repositioning itself as a healthy lifestyle brand. That being said, it’s not surprising that the traditional yogurt market might feel threatened.
While Yoplait does have its line of Yoplait Greek 100 yogurts, the brand recently decided to focus in on improving its Original yogurt variety and cut more than 25% of the sugar content in the new recipe, said Pitt.
Yoplait has already made other changes in the past, such as removing high-fructose corn syrup, using milk that is rBST-free, and removing aspartame from the Light yogurt varieties. But as consumers expressed concerns about sugar levels, Yoplait answered the call to action. Other food companies, such as Nestle, have recently made similar changes.
Greek yogurt continues to be a choice breakfast food for consumers—and now their kids too. While Greek yogurt may not replace traditional yogurt anytime soon (if at all), for many, breakfast will never taste the same.