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Pulling back the lid on the Greek yogurt trend

Dannon: There's almost nowhere Greek yogurt can't go

By Maggie Hennessy , 27-May-2014
Last updated on 06-Jun-2014 at 20:33 GMT

Dannon's Art D'Elia: “While the phenomenon of Greek yogurt continues to drive growth in the refrigerated yogurt section, our ambition is to accelerate growth for retailers in the frozen aisle based on the broad and expandable appeal of Greek yogurt.
Dannon's Art D'Elia: “While the phenomenon of Greek yogurt continues to drive growth in the refrigerated yogurt section, our ambition is to accelerate growth for retailers in the frozen aisle based on the broad and expandable appeal of Greek yogurt."

Greek yogurt has long been edging its way beyond the refrigerated aisles and into everything from coated snacks to bars, to baking chips and frozen yogurt. With that, the competitive landscape has grown increasingly crowded, with big names including Chobani, General Mills (Yoplait Greek), Fage, Dannon (Oikos), and ConAgra Foods (Healthy Choice) all vying for a share of the spotlight and consumers’ limited dollars. 

So where does the Greek yogurt trend stand, and how does the frozen aisle play into its continued success? FoodNavigator-USA caught up with Art D’Elia, vice president of marketing for Dannon’s Oikos brand, on the brand’s recent foray into the frozen section and why he doesn’t think Greek yogurt is going anywhere soon.

Greek yogurt now commands much of the $7bn-plus US yogurt market, accounting for 44% of overall yogurt sales in 2013 (compared with just 4% in 2008). Chobani still leads the category with 37.6% of the market, despite a slew of Greek yogurt launches backed by heavy ad spending from the competition.

Frozen yogurt driving frozen desserts growth; Greek leading frozen yogurt

This spring, Dannon's Oikos Greek yogurt brand threw its proverbial hat into the frozen aisle with the launch of Oikos Greek frozen yogurt in six flavors: chocolate, strawberry, vanilla, black cherry, café latte and key lime. D’Elia says the expansion was driven by the seemingly limitless potential in the Greek yogurt category.

While the phenomenon of Greek yogurt continues to drive growth in the refrigerated yogurt section, our ambition is to accelerate growth for retailers in the frozen aisle based on the broad and expandable appeal of Greek yogurt,” he said. “Frozen yogurt is the single largest driver of growth in frozen desserts, and within that Greek is driving most of the growth. For Dannon, the extension of Oikos into the frozen section is a priority as we seek to grow per capita consumption of yogurt in the US.”

Each serving contains half the fat of regular ice cream, 6 grams of protein, 20% of the DVA for calcium and active yogurt cultures.

Protein has become a key driver of yogurt’s appeal among consumers. Recent data from Innova Market Insights showed that more than a third of new products launched in the US yogurt market in the year to September 2013 featured protein claims, compared to just 6% over the same period in Western Europe. This is due in large part to the rise of Greek and Greek-style strained yogurts, which are inherently higher in protein, Innova noted.

Americans can be quite protein focused, and Greek yogurt delivers on that,” D’Elia said, adding that the creamy mouthfeel of Greek yogurt lends itself dually well to frozen yogurt. “Our Greek yogurt has an incredibly rich and creamy texture, which make it feel like an indulgence without having to sacrifice taste and healthfulness,” he said.

Oikos once again tapped longtime brand ambassador John Stamos to help advertise the frozen yogurt line. D’Elia noted that the celebrity spokesman has helped grow awareness for Oikos over the past three years, “and we are excited to build on this collaboration with the launch of the Oikos Frozen Greek yogurt ad.” 

But what also differentiates Oikos from a growing number of competitors is its sheer variety of product offerings—“the complete range of products we offer in a massive range of flavors, from nonfat to lowfat single serve cups, larger formats for cooking, and now both frozen and refrigerated,” D’Elia said. “We are constantly looking for new ways to broaden the Dannon Oikos line, while never compromising on quality, to help Americans realize the benefits of eating yogurt.”  

New York-based Blue Hill jumped into savory Greek yogurt this winter.

What’s next? Savory yogurt and Greek for kids

Indeed, Dannon recently took its Greek to the children’s market with Danimals SuperStars Greek Lowfat Yogurt, which features 10 grams of protein per 4-ounce cup, and has no artificial colors, flavors or high fructose corn syrup.

And last year, the manufacturer went savory with the introduction of Oikos Greek Yogurt Dips in French onion, cucumber dill, roasted red pepper and vegetable herb. “It was the first savory extension for the Greek yogurt category by a leading brand,” D’Elia said.

But not the only one. Blue Hill took the market by storm this winter with the launch of its savory (non-Greek style) yogurt line that has since secured distribution in three Whole Foods Markets regions and several specialty grocers in the Northeast.

And where does Blue Hill president David Barber see the market for savory yogurt headed? Nowhere but up, as he told us in January. “We know a lot of yogurt companies are paying a lot of attention to our products, and I’d anticipate people will dip their toes in the water if they haven’t already,” he said. “There’s plenty of room in the market. There is just so much potential because US consumers still only eat around a third of the yogurt that Europeans do, and we’d like to see the category grow with less sweet products.”

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