Yogurt sales tumble after a decade of growth
- Yogurt sales fell 6% by volume in the year through February, according to Nielsen data reported by The Wall Street Journal. Sales of Greek yogurt declined by 11% during the same period.
- The number of yogurt varieties available at the average U.S. retail supermarket has increased 4% since 2015, according to brand sales and marketing agency Acosta, the paper noted. Meanwhile, more healthful brands and less-expensive store brands are offering consumers additional options besides traditional dairy-based yogurts.
- The decline may be due to a surfeit of flavors and styles, otherwise known as yogurt fatigue, some company executives said. "It's self-inflicted," Peter McGuinness, chief marketing officer for Chobani, told The Wall Street Journal. General Mills CEO Jeff Harmening said yogurt makers have made the category more confusing for consumers. "The shelf has become more difficult to shop," he said.
Following a decade of growth, the yogurt sales surge may be coming to an end. The overall sales drop appears to stem from a combination of too many options, increasing better-for-you products and the growing trend toward more plant-based foods.
Unit sales reportedly declined through March for popular brands like Danone, General Mills, Fage International and Noosa Yoghurt. Meanwhile, sales of thicker yogurt styles — such as Icelandic "skyr" varieties — jumped 23% by volume in the past year, The Wall Street Journal noted, citing Nielsen data. Non-dairy products from coconut, almonds and other plants also have grown in popularity.
More companies are turning away from dairy yogurt to boost their bottom lines. Chobani has seen dollar and volume sales jump so far this year after launching coconut-based and lower-sugar options, plus the debut of its kids' line called Chobani Gimmies last fall. Danone also has produced low-sugar Greek yogurts under the Two Good line and plant-based options with its Good Plants brand.
Beyond yogurt, dairy in general has suffered from the increasing popularity of plant-based foods and beverages. Traditional dairy sales fell 15% between 2012 and 2017, while non-dairy milk sales jumped 61% to more than $2 billion annually, according to Mintel.
To maintain consumer interest, yogurt companies also have been diversifying into global styles, with manufacturers launching not just Icelandic varieties, but also French and Australian ones. These products typically have cleaner labels and contain no preservatives or added flavors — such as General Mills' Oui by Yopliat, which is marketed in a clear glass jar. However, it's a delicate balance to differentiate into new offerings without confusing consumers with too many choices.
It appears that yogurt makers are going to have to do more to retain market share in this increasingly crowded segment. One solution could be to introduce yogurt products that can be viewed as snacks, helping to expand opportunities for consumption throughout the day. Noosa did this in 2017 by adding granola, nuts and chocolate toppings to mix into its Australian-style yogurt, which may have helped to boost its profile as an anytime snack rather than merely a breakfast choice.
While it's possible another variety will become the next Greek yogurt — a style often credited with helping to spawn the previous yogurt craze — the future of the sector looks a bit muddled right now unless all the varied market entries shake out and consumers start to feel less confused by all the options. Variety may be the spice of life, but it seems like there can be too much of it when it comes to shopping for yogurt.
- The Wall Street Journal Yogurt Sales Sour as Options Proliferate