“The US yogurt market is an $8 billion market that has continued to grow over the last five to six years as one of the fastest-growing categories in the grocery store with one of the highest velocities. However, it also is mostly a sweet product, with the top selling flavors of strawberry and blueberry, and it is mostly focused on breakfast,” said Anshu Dua, co-founder of The Chaat Co.
Imagine the potential market size of yogurt in the US if more options were offered that could be consumed throughout the day, he added at Rabobank North American Wholesale’s 2016 FoodBytes! Brooklyn event earlier this spring.
In particular, he noted the potential posed by combining American’s love of yogurt, with their increasing adoration of snacking – which is a $70 billion market in which more than half of consumers say they snack at least twice a day, most often in the mid-afternoon.
A new twist on yogurt in the US
Seizing on this market potential, Dua teamed with Shiraz Noor to launch a trio of highly differentiated yogurts specifically designed for mid-afternoon, savory snacking.
The currently available flavors – cucumber mint, mango chili and tamarind date – were inspired by Indian street snacks called chaat, Noor explained.
“These snacks are very, very dynamic and vibrant in terms of taste, texture and temperature, and they’re also built on some of the most on-trend ingredients in the natural food space in the United States – so things like yogurt, which we’re very keen on, spices like turmeric and chilies, different tropical fruits, pulses, legumes and power foods,” he said.
The resulting line of yogurts also are “different from typical yogurt mainly in the fact that they do not contain any added sugar, and instead they’ve got on-trend spices,” fruits and vegetables and are made with grass-fed whole milk yogurt that is creamy, tart and “perfectly stir-able,” he noted.
Each snack comes with a topping of crunchy puffed lentils seasoned with sea salt, cumin and turmeric that are ready to mixed-in before eating. The legume topping further differentiates the snack from other yogurts in the US that typically have toppings of granola, nuts, dried fruit or chocolate.
Competition heating up
The Chaat Co. is not the only company trying to expand yogurt into new day parts and flavor profiles. Chobani also recently launched several savory yogurts with mix-ins, but the startup co-founders are not too worried about the competition.
“It is actually really exciting for us to see those flavors take hold from a mainstream producer,” Noor said. But he stressed that The Chaat Co.’s yogurts are different in that they are not sweet yogurts with spices, but are purely savory (aside from the slight natural sweetness of the yogurt).
He added that consumers who want to reduce sugar are particularly drawn to the snacks, some of which are purely savory and others which have a slight natural sweetness from the fruit for consumers who are grudgingly giving up sugar, even though they still want something a little sweet.
The product does particularly well with urban professionals, suburban moms and even children who often are stereotyped as wanting sweets, but who are eager to try something new with fun flavors and textures, he said.
The young company’s approach to growth is just as inventive as its product. Rather than restrict itself to retailers in the natural channel, of which it was in about 50 as of January, the company also is exploring fast casual restaurants “where consumers are already in a savory mindset,” Noor said.
He explained that he envisions consumers picking up a savory yogurt with a sandwich at lunch – bringing up the total of their bill and creating a win-win for the manufacturer and retailer.
Consumers looking for a savory snack or mini-meal also will like the yogurt’s price point of $2.50-$2.99, which is less than many other savory, hearty snacks – even though it is higher than most yogurt sold for breakfast, Noor said.