Simply 100 - which Chobani claims is the first ‘light’ Greek yogurt made with no artificial sweeteners - was the #1 dairy launch and #3 food & beverage launch in IRI’s 2014 ‘New Product Pacesetters’ report.
And while some of this growth has come from distribution gains, the brand is also generating strong sales velocity, with encouraging repeat purchase data, chief marketing and brand officer Peter McGuinness told FoodNavigator-USA.
Some fruits work really well with stevia, for example, and some really don’t
So why change it?
The brand refresh hasn't involved significant recipe/ingredient changes, although moving to a blended product has meant that formulations have had to be tweaked.
The new blended formula is “easier on the palate” for target consumers – ‘thoughtful weight managers’ – who are often heavy consumers of yogurt, said McGuinness.
“Thoughtful weight managers are calorie-conscious and they want fiber and protein for satiety, but they are not just people on diets, they are a subset of our overall target audience, who we call ‘thoughtful strivers’. These are people that are not zealots about food, but they read labels and they care about what they put in their bodies, and they represent about 60% of the population, so this isn’t a niche group… it’s massive and growing.”
As heavy yogurt users can get “flavor fatigue”, Chobani has also added new flavors to the range such as mango passion fruit, he said.
The key to the brand refresh project has been treating each flavor as a mini R&D project in itself, said Chobani R&D scientist Adam Croissant: "We look at each one and ask what’s driving any negative flavors and what’s driving the positive flavors?"
'Some fruits work really well with stevia, for example, and some don’t'
There has also been intensive R&D work to ensure that the fruits selected for the products work well with the high potency sweeteners, he said.
“Some fruits work really well with stevia, for example, and some don’t.”
The combination of monk fruit and a small amount of sugar (evaporated cane juice) helped tackle the lingering bitterness of stevia, he added, while the chicory root – which is primarily there to add fiber, also contributes to the “sugar taste” without adding as many calories.
We don’t need all these chemical little helpers
An excellent source of protein (12g) and fiber (5g, from chicory root) per 5.3 oz pot, Chobani Simply 100 uses pectin, locust bean gum and guar gum (rather than modified corn starch) to stop the product separating when fruits are added, said Chobani global R&D vice president Kai Sacher.
“If you’ve just got plain yogurt, of course, you don’t have to add anything, it’s a protein gel, it forms a matrix that binds together. But when you add an ingredient such as fruit, which contains water, it disrupts that matrix, so pectin or other stabilizers are needed to help it reform that gel.”
Competitor brands such as Dannon Light & Fit Greek and Yoplait 100 - which are sweetened with fructose, ace K and sucralose – typically contain corn starch and potassium sorbate, ingredients Sacher claimed “don’t need to be in there”.
He added: “We don’t need all these chemical little helpers, I don’t know why they can’t formulate without potassium sorbate or corn starch. Our stabilizing system is a bit more sensitive and it means you have to keep a very close eye on quality control, but we have a 60-day shelf life without using corn starch, which is more than ample for a dairy product.”
Non-GMO by legal definition, but not by some voluntary schemes
The new Simply 100 packaging features the new phrase ‘Only natural non-GMO ingredients’ on the lid, plus the phrase ‘Our ingredients are certified non-GMO’ [by eurofins, according to Chobani’s website].
However, its yogurts would not qualify for the stricter Non-GMO Project verified scheme, because it cannot guarantee that its milk comes from cows fed non-GMO feed.
On its website, Chobani notes that this is simply not feasible at the moment, adding that, "There is simply not enough non-GMO grain for farmers to feed their dairy cows.”
Other new call-outs on the packaging include:
- Preserve yourself. We believe that artificial preservatives aren’t good for you. That’s why we don’t add them.
- Fuel yourself: Protein and fiber are the key.
- Love the cows: We believe artificial growth hormones are not good for cows or you. That's why they are not in our yogurt.
- 75% less sugar than regular yogurt
Read more about Chobani's new Love this Life campaign and packaging refresh below: