The label – ‘coconut based Non-Dairy Chobani’ - does not feature the word ‘yogurt’ (eg. ‘plant-based yogurt’ or ‘yogurt alternative’), which was deliberate, chief marketing and commercial officer Peter McGuinness told FoodNavigator-USA.
“We steered clear of ‘yogurt’ because we believe yogurt is [dairy] milk-based and we believe the FDA is going to rule on that soon. I think there is rampant abuse in terms of language and it’s confusing consumers. We want to be clear with consumers. Our hierarchy is simple: It’s coconut based, it’s non-dairy, it’s from Chobani, and here’s the flavor [eg. peach, blueberry etc].”
(Rival Danone North America – which owns the Silk and So Delicious nondairy brands, and recently launched Good Plants, a new line of almondmilk-based yogurt alternatives - takes a different view, recently telling the FDA that banning terms (eg. almondmilk) with which shoppers are familiar “could make it more challenging for consumers to find the products they want on shelf and to understand what they are buying.”)
US retail sales of plant-based yogurt up 54% YoY
While Nielsen xAOC data for the 52-weeks ending August 11, 2018 (covering grocery stores, drug stores, mass merchandisers, club stores, dollar stores, and military stores, plus Whole Foods Market) shows rapid growth (+54%) in US retail sales of plant-based yogurt, the market is comparatively small ($174m – although it has grown since then), acknowledged McGuinness.
However, the growth potential is significant, he claimed: “Plant-based milk is more than 13% of fluid milk, whereas plant-based yogurt is only 2% of the yogurt market, but it’s growing in the double digits, even with a lot of options that just don’t taste good or are high in sugar. We don’t want to steal share or trade dollars [from dairy yogurt], we want to bring new people into the category because we have a product with great taste and texture and less sugar.”
While Chobani’s R&D team have experimented with a range of plant-based ingredients as a yogurt base, and may expand the range beyond coconut in future, it started with coconut because it delivers a “smooth, creamy, full-bodied” texture and a “clean, fresh taste,” said McGuinness.
It’s a time of experimentation and exploration
Looking at the plant-based yogurt category, while some brands are more established than others, it remains fairly fragmented, with lots of smaller players and no runaway leader, meaning there is everything to play for, for a trusted brand with the credibility Chobani has already built with consumers, he said.
“It’s a time of experimentation and exploration and consumers are open to trying new things in this category. If there are segments of the population that prefer certain things you are not making, you want to go participate in that, and do it better, and that’s where we’re at.”
*According to Chobani, Non-Dairy Chobani per 5.3oz cups contain an average of 11g sugar, while rivals have an average of 15g sugar. Non-Dairy Chobani drinks have on average, 9g sugar, while other non-dairy drinks average 13g sugar per 7 fl. Oz, claimed the company.
“For some time, we’ve felt that people deserve better non-dairy options. We’ve come up with something that’s much better than what’s out there – a new recipe that’s absolutely delicious, but also meets our food philosophy of being nutritious, made with only natural ingredients and at a price that’s accessible to all. Most importantly, this isn’t a replacement to dairy, but it’s a game-changer for plant-based products.”
Hamdi Ulukaya, founder and CEO, Chobani
Non-Dairy Chobani cultured organic coconut products will be available nationwide in 5.3oz cups (Blueberry, Peach, Slightly Sweet Plain, Strawberry and Vanilla MSRP $1.99) and 7oz drinks (Mango, Slightly Sweet Plain, Strawberry and Vanilla Chai – MSRP $2.49).