US retail sales of yogurt + yogurt drinks fell -1.8% in the 52 weeks to June 29, 2019, the third year of negative sales. But there have been signs of recovery in recent months, with sales down just -0.4% in the latest 13 weeks, and sales up +0.1% in the latest four weeks, according to Nielsen xAOC data supplied to FoodNavigator-USA by Chobani.
Speaking as Chobani unveiled its latest innovation – Greek yogurt infused with nut butters – chief marketing and commercial officer Peter McGuinness acknowledged that category sales of Greek yogurt continued to decline, but said Chobani’s core Greek yogurt line was growing.
“The pockets of growth [in the overall category] are [yogurt for] kids, yogurt drinks, [yogurts with] less sugar, and plant-based [yogurts], but what’s encouraging is that our core Greek yogurt is growing year over year, so when people say Greek is dead, well our core Greek yogurt is up.”
Chobani had posted a 4.2% increase in sales in measured channels in the 52-week period and a 6.1% rise in the latest four-week period – outpacing market growth – he said.
“We’re the only major manufacturer that’s growing year to date – that’s market share and dollar growth and EQ volume growth, and in the last four weeks with Nielsen data, the category is back to flat. Now, we’re not going to do cartwheels over flat growth, but I think this is a huge story, a tremendous improvement, and we’re driving a lot of that growth."
According to Nielsen xAOC data, US retail sales of yogurt were down -2.3% in the 52 weeks to May 25, 2019, with Greek yogurt down -7.4%, Icelandic yogurt up +15.4% and non-dairy yogurt up +44.3%, albeit off a small base.
Nut butter + yogurt: We had that a-ha moment, people were doing this for themselves, so we thought why not do it for them?
The new 5-SKU line – hitting stores nationwide this month (MSRP $1.69/5.3oz cup) – combines 2% milk fat Greek Yogurt (in plain, vanilla, honey, and chocolate flavors) with nut butters (almond, cashew, and hazelnut), creating a more filling snack with healthy fats and protein, said McGuiness.
While nut butter has a thick texture, especially when refrigerated, the yogurts have a creamy, “easily spoonable consistency” without any clumps at the bottom of the cup, he added.
“We’re the first to do nut butters with Greek yogurt, it’s a superfood, it’s 30% less sugar, it’s got healthy fats, it’s a nutrient bomb that’s super on-trend, and instead of just plain with something on the bottom, we’ve got these dynamic blends, so vanilla [Greek yogurt] with almond butter, or chocolate [Greek yogurt] and hazelnut butter. It’s a really nice marriage.”
Asked how Chobani had validated the concept with consumers, he added: “We’ve served nut butter [and Greek yogurt] creations in our café since 2012, and it’s one of the top items that’s widely talked about on Instagram and praised.
“But what we’ve also noticed on our social feeds is that people were adding nut butters to our plain or vanilla yogurt, or adding it to make smoothies, so we took a lot of inspiration from that.
“We had that a-ha moment, people were doing this for themselves, so we thought why not do this for them?”
The new Chobani nut butters platform includes five SKUs (MSRP $1.69/5.3oz cup):
- Vanilla Greek Yogurt with Almond Butter
- Plain Greek Yogurt with Almond Butter
- Honey Greek Yogurt with Almond Butter
- Chocolate Greek Yogurt with Hazelnut Butter
- Vanilla Greek Yogurt with Cashew Butter
Chobani Smooth has ‘not set the world on fire’
Chobani Smooth, the company’s first foray into non-Greek yogurt, had “not set the world on fire" since its 2017 launch, acknowledged McGuinness. “We’ve been out of Smooth for a while although we’re still in some specialty channels, foodservice, and in Mexico. You can’t get them all right.”
Speaking to analysts during the firm’s Q4 earnings call, General Mills CEO Jeff Harmening said the firm’s US retail sales of yogurt were down -2% in fiscal year 2019, a marked improvement on the -11% drop in 2018 and the -19% drop in 2017.
The company - which is launching a probiotic yogurt under the GoodBelly brand (in which General Mills is an investor via its venture-capital arm 301 Inc) – said its French-style set yogurt Oui continued to generate impressive growth. However, it is revamping its high-protein YQ by Yoplait brand with a new recipe and a new look.
"With YQ," Jon Nudi, president of North America retail told Bloomberg,"we feel like we have something, we were just a bit off."