Yogurt and Organics Keeping Busy

Higher costs are being passed through to cultured products consumers, as they are in the rest of dairy, but yogurt sales have held steady, and there are plenty of new products coming to market in the area of organic cultured products and probiotic yogurts.

First we’ll look at sales numbers. Unit sales of yogurt and yogurt drinks have been fairly steady in recent quarters. This, despite a sharp increase in prices. Dollar sales were up by 5% in the period ended Sept. 30, with a 1.7% drop in unit sales. Dollars jumped 10.6% for the following quarter, ended Dec. 30, but unit sales actually grew .89%. These numbers are according to data from Information Resources Inc., through its FDMX measure of food, drugstore, and mass merchandiser retailers.

Looking at the top brands of yogurt and yogurt drinks, most experienced significant, or at least measureable growth in unit sales during the 52 weeks ended Feb. 24.  Interesting to note that private label yogurt did show a significant drop of 6.28% in unit sales for the period, although it still holds the biggest slice of the pie.  Yoplait original remains the top brand, and Yoplait Light is not far behind. Yoplait Light and Dannon Activia had the most rapid growth, with a 14.67% jump and an 11.7% hike respectively.

Cottage cheese is the second largest sub-category in cultured dairy, and its unit sales are feeling the pinch of higher prices much more than those of yogurt. Dollar sales have taken off since last July as prices increased, and specials were restricted. By the end of January dollar sales had jumped 12.2% for the quarter while unit sales tumbled 7.7%.

Looking at sour cream sales, dollar sales have seen some sizable jumps, but the drop-off in volume sales has been less dramatic: -2.3%, -1.7%, and 1.6%, in the three most recent quarters.

One interesting aspect of the sour cream market is the brand breakdown. Daisy is the only top brand that’s been growing in the last year, and it did so at an impressive pace. With unit sales leaping by nearly 12% it has fortified its spot as the top brand after private label.  Daisy now holds a 22% unit share, compared to just 14% for Breakstone.

For an analysis of the broader trends that are pushing some of these numbers, and for some numbers on how many products in different categories are hitting the shelves, we turn to our partners at the Mintel International Group. 

Today’s food and beverage manufacturers are all trying to capture the public’s growing interest in functional foods. The dairy industry has done an especially good job of enhancing its products with health and wellness benefits. The Mintel Global New Products Database (GNPD) reports that spoonable yogurt was the second most active sub-category among all US functional foods launched in 2007. It was preceded only by meal replacement beverages.

Omega-3s have become one of the most visible and influential cultured dairy functional food trends. Consumer awareness of omega fatty acids is growing, and dairy companies have been on the cutting edge of product development in this area. Last year, major brands including Breyers and Blue Bunny launched omega-3 yogurts in the United States. Yoplait also introduced omega-3 yogurt products, both spoonable and drinkable, but targeted them toward children. Even niche brands have been active in the omega-3 space. Rachel’s Wickedly Delicious Yogurt, a brand founded in the UK but introduced to the U.S. in 2007, is fortified with DHA for mental function. This premium line includes such varieties as Vitality Pomegranate Acai, Revive Peach Green Tea with Ginseng, Calm Plum Honey Lavender and Exotic Pomegranate Blueberry.

Dairies have delivered even more forward-thinking innovation. Beauty foods-a category of products that improve consumers’ appearances from the inside out-originated in Asia and are still best established in that market. Many of these beauty foods are dairy-based and use yogurt as the carrier for their functional benefits. Beauty yogurts frequently include ingredients such as amino acids, collagen and protein from sources as diverse as soy and silkworms. In Europe, beauty foods have also gained considerable traction.

Apart from beauty foods, a variety of functional cultured trends have origins in other parts of the world but have already migrated to the U.S. Satiety is one of those trends. As consumers move away from extreme diets and toward more moderate, balanced eating plans, satiety has an increasingly important place in weight management plans. In Europe, Nestle has been a leader in this area with its line of satiety drinkable yogurts called Sveltesse (in Spain). Closer to home, Danone has established market leadership in the U.S. with its Light & Fit Crave Control yogurt made with fruit, cereal, fiber and protein.

Segments of this report were provided by Krista Faron of The Mintel International Group.