Yogurt: The most versatile grocery aisle product

First it was a food, then a snack and now a beverage. Next up, vitamins?

First it was a food, then a snack and now a beverage. Next up, vitamins?

Back in 2010, famed eating trends expert Harry Balzer dubbed yogurt the “food of the decade.”

In an interview shortly after, Balzer, with NPD Group, pointed to yogurt’s virtues: “It’s very convenient. It’s very individualized. You don’t get a bunch of yogurt like you get a pizza pie and celebrate with everybody else. This is just for you.”

Four years on, yogurt’s appeal is still on the up. Ninety-one per cent of Canadians have it on their shopping lists, says NPD, and sales are up 10%, according to Nielsen.

A wave of new yogurt products and brands has hit the market. And Greek yogurt could be nearing super-trend status.

“As long as brands keep offering new innovative products and flavourings to cater to all members of the family, the yogurt category will continue to grow,” says Catherine Jackson of General Mills. “There are plenty of opportunities.”

Jackson sees Europe as a guidepost. Her team’s visits to stores in France found not just one, but also several, aisles dedicated to yogurt. Though Canadian yogurt consumption has grown 60% in the decade, to 2011, we still only eat 11 kilograms a year. Europeans average 35 kilos.

CPGs are definitely giving Canadians more yogurts to choose from. Last year, Ultima Foods launched a new brand, Iögo, with 44 different SKUs.

In September, General Mills’ Yoplait countered Iögo’s umlaut with an exclamation point by launching “Yopa!”, a Greek yogurt.

Jackson says shoppers want more premium varieties of yogurt now. Yopa flavours such as Va-Va Vanilla Bean and Lotta Piña Colada fit that trend, she says.

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One thing in yogurt’s favour is its anytime, anywhere snack appeal. A handful of grocers polled by Canadian Grocer said that their customers are more often grabbing larger variety packs. Twelve- to 16-pack formats, in particular, are more popular now than traditional four to eights, they said.

Perhaps yogurt’s greatest trick has been its transformation from food to beverage. “There is a growing perception among Canadians that drinkable yogurt is a ‘daily shot’ of health–simple, fast and easy to carry,” noted a recent Euromonitor report.

Last year, Danone launched dinosaur-shaped bottles of drinkable yogurt for kids under the Danino brand, says the company’s Anne-Julie Maltais. And this year it launched its own Greek yogurt line under the Activia brand.

For adults, healthy buzzwords count more than packaging. Terms such as “zero-fat” and “low/no calorie” are key.

Jackson says “lactose-free” is catching on and points to Yoplait Lactose Free as a prime example.

Consumers are also looking for “natural” cues. Ultima has launched Iögo with the natural sweetener stevia.

“Consumers are more health conscious and want to know exactly what they are putting in their bodies,” says Ultima>’s Diane Jubinville.

So what’s next? How about Greek yogurt as a super trend, up there with gluten-free and antioxidants? That’s the idea in a report by Waltham, Mass.-based consumer research firm Affinnova.

The report, called “Greek Yogurt Revolution”, examined what line extensions might take Greek yogurt beyond the dairy case. Among the top contenders: Greek yogurt vitamin chews, which consumers perceive as “easy on the stomach”; and Greek yogurt anti-wrinkle cream, which scored high with people 55 and older. Other Greek yogurt spinoffs that could work: ice cream and baking mixes.

As the French discovered, yogurt may soon need more aisles than one.

This story originally appeared in Canadian Grocer

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