At Natural Products Expo East in Philadelphia last week several brands showcased their twists on the creamy, tangy strained yogurt cheese that is a staple in many Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisines, but is relatively unknown in the US – and until recently only available from regional, speciality brands, in restaurants or in the kitchens of ambitious Americans who make their own.
Joining the startup Yaza, which earlier this summer launched a full line-up of the strained yogurt, which it spells labneh, Cedar’s Foods introduced at Expo East two versions of the dip, which it spells labne, which are launching this month exclusively at Sprouts.
‘It couldn’t be a better time for dips’
A well-established player in the dips and spreads category, Cedar’s Foods launched its Sizzling Scallion and Feta & Onion labne as a natural extension of its portfolio of Mediterranean products, which includes a wide range of hummus (which it spells hommus), tzatziki, and other dips and dippers, and as a way to build on consumers’ interest in Greek yogurt and convenient options for entertaining and quick meals.
“It couldn’t be a better time for dips. Post-COVID, we’re seeing that the dips category is spiking. People are enjoying dips more than just a snacking moment. They’re bringing it into different aspects of their life … [and] consumer data is showing us that people are enjoying it much more than previous years,” Elisha Todesca, digital marketing manager at Cedar’s Foods, told FoodNavigator-USA at Expo East.
Fortune Business Insights predicts the global dips and spreads market will grow at a compound annual growth rate of 5.43% through 2029 to reach $132.2b, which is on top of a 12.62% increase between 2019 and 2020, when the pandemic hit, according to the research firm.
Unlike other discretionary categories that are being squeezed in the current inflationary environment, Mintel predicts dips and savory spreads in the US will continue to grow as a tool to boost at-home eating.
This rings true for Todesca, who said that consumers are pushing brands and retailers to bring more options into the category.
“Post-COVID … people are getting together, they’re getting out of their comfort zone, they’re trying and demanding these different flavors and exciting ideas,” and so Cedar’s Foods “knew it was time to introduce some more Mediterranean dips into our portfolio,” she said.
An approachable, versatile option
She explained that as Americans become more familiar and comfortable with Greek yogurt, the company believes they are ready to level-up with labne, which she describes as a “tangy, sour cream like yogurt dip” that is “super versatile” and can be served with honey and nuts in the traditional Mediterranean style or as a dip for pizza or even as a pasta sauce.
As with any new product, Todesca acknowledged “there’s definitely some education to do with labne,” but she said the lift won’t be as heavy as it was when hummus was first introduced to the US.
“Labne is sitting on the shelf next to products that consumers are already loving and trying, so it’s an easier transition to something that might be out of their comfort zone,” she said.
She added that the health halo of the Mediterranean diet also helps drive trial as consumers look for products that are better-for-them but still feel like an indulgence.