Yogurt Brands Battle, Natural Cheese Hangs On

The top ten yogurt brands — as always, populated by offerings from Dannon, and General Mills — are fighting for position, while natural cheese is hanging on at retail, despite the overall gloom in the cheese category.

In the yogurt department, those big top brands seem to be spinning their wheels, with most showing sluggishness or no growth at all for the 52 weeks leading up to Jan. 26. Only two established brands showed growth of 4% or better, while some big names lost significant share – Dannon Light and Fit, for example. These numbers are from Information Resources Inc., and do not reflect foodservice sales or Wal-Mart’s rings.

Overall, the yogurt category is moving, with double-digit growth in both the dollar and unit columns. So where is the growth coming from, you ask? Well private label is certainly getting some traction with 4.7% growth in units and an impressive 11.1% jump in dollar sales. And it’s safe to say that some of the newly-introduced brands and a lot of the entries below the top ten are in high gear, too.

Most cheese makers are having a rough go of things with the commodity prices in the dumps lately. Overall sales have lost some momentum, but natural cheese seems to be doing well at retail. Of the last eight quarters, only two saw unit sales drop compared to the prior year, and then, by relatively small margins. Dollar sales grew in each quarter, albeit a little more slowly in the past year.

In the freezer aisle, most of the top ten novelty brands have been doing well, out-pacing growth in private label offerings. Some, like Klondike and Nestl¿drumsticks had double digit growth in the year leading up to Jan. 26, according to IRI. Private label novelties actually lost ground in terms of unit sale, while newly introduced better-for-you brands grabbed big market share. Overall, the category was up a respectable 8.2% in dollar sales for the period, while unit sales climbed 3.2%.

Finally, for a change of pace, Dairy Market Trends looks at refrigerated orange juice. Quarterly figures show that it’s not all sunshine and smiles in this category. Five straight periods of declining unit sales were finally halted in summer and fall of last year. Dollar sales were down significantly at the end of 2001 but gradually worked their way back to the positive side. The third quarter 2002 was virtually flat, and the last quarter yielded small, but measurable growth.