Retailers across the country struggle to make room for the plethora ofnew cultured dairy products that have been introduced duringthe past year - and continue to roll out.

From dairy desserts, such as the 100-calorie Yoplait Delights Parfait pictured above, to Greek-style yogurts, to all-natural savory dips, retailers across the country struggle to make room for the plethora of new cultured dairy products that have been introduced during the past year - and continue to roll out. Some provide extra nutrition in the form of added vitamins, minerals, fiber, beneficial bacteria and healthful fatty acids, while others are simply designed to be enjoyed.

Regardless of their intent, retailers stay busy stocking and restocking, in particular yogurt, as consumers purchase these innovations at record number. According to Chicago-based Mintel, sales of yogurt and yogurt drinks grew 34% between 2004 and 2009 to reach $4.1 billion. By 2014, the market research firm predicts that the industry will have grown by 28% and achieved total sales of more than $5 billion.

In terms of new product roll outs, from 2008 until press time for this issue, 352 stock-keeping units (SKUs) of refrigerated yogurt had been introduced, according to Mintel. There were also 70 new SKUs of liquid cultured dairy products, such as drinkable yogurt and kefir, and 48 SKUs of cottage cheese.

Much of this activity can be attributed to the fact that most consumers view single-serve units of yogurt products and cottage cheese as portable nutrition. These products are some of the most healthful dashboard dining options available in the retail marketplace. Further, yogurt is a very flexible and forgiving product in terms of nutrient fortification and flavor addition. This enables manufacturers to keep the category dynamic through regular introduction of new flavors, as well as value-added formulations that speak to consumers’ current health and wellness interests.

Not too many ingredients

One of the hottest trends in today’s food formulating industry is to keep ingredient legends pure and simple. “New trends in purity and simplicity are evident as we move to simpler inputs, focused messaging, cleaner labeling, streamlined design and easy delivery,” according to the Natural Marketing Institute (NMI), Harleysville, Pa. “Simplicity and purity is not a ‘dumbing down,’ but rather an attempt to get at the essential core of what is really needed. This ‘less is more’ trend is resonating with values-driven consumers, natural and eco-friendly enthusiasts, and convenience shoppers - purity and simplicity is now the ultimate sophistication.”

Without a doubt this concept is contributing to Greek-style yogurts flooding the refrigerated dairy case. Called “yiaourti” in Greece, authentic Greek yogurt is thicker than regular yogurt, and that’s not due to the addition of hydrocolloids, as authentic Greek yogurt owes its lavish texture to a centuries-old straining process that removes the whey from the yogurt. This results in a higher protein content, and a naturally richer and creamier yogurt without the addition of ingredients beyond milk and cultures. Traditional Greek yogurt is all about being pure and simple.

Due to overwhelming consumer demand for authentic Greek yogurt, Chobani has added two new flavors to its lineup: 0% Pomegranate and 2% Pineapple. Further, like the original flavors, each 6-ounce cup packs in 20% of the Daily Value (DV) for calcium, five live and active cultures including three probiotics, and two times more protein than most American-style yogurts, according to the company.

“Everything we do is for our consumers. Chobani fans have been asking us to make a pineapple Chobani so that’s what we’re doing. The same thing goes for pomegranate,” says Kyle O’Brien, vice president of sales. The 0% Pomegranate has just 140 calories, 0 grams of fat and 14 grams of protein. But it’s the whole pomegranate seeds in the fruit on the bottom that really make it stand out from other pomegranate yogurt products. The brand’s 2% Pineapple boasts real pineapple chunks and only 160 calories, 2.5 grams of fat and 13 grams of protein. It is currently the only pineapple Greek yogurt available in U.S. markets.

New Chobani Champions are the first Greek yogurts in the United States made exclusively for children’s tastes. The company combines the nutritional benefits of its Greek yogurts, which traditionally appeal to adults, with kid-pleasing flavors, for an all-natural line of yogurts that are nutritious, delicious and fun to eat. The packages include games inside the tray for added amusement.

“At Chobani, we’re committed to living the ‘Nothing But Good’ philosophy,” says Hamdi Ulukaya, CEO and founder of AgroFarma Inc., New Berlin, N.Y., Chobani’s parent company. “We take our role as America’s number-one Greek yogurt brand very seriously, and firmly believe good nutrition begins in childhood. We’re pleased to give parents a healthy option for children including the fun and tastiness kids enjoy.

The 2% fat yogurts come in 4-ounce cups to accommodate a child-size appetite. Chobani Champions come in three flavor combinations - StrawNana, VerryBerry and HoneyNana - as well as chocolate.

Liberté Brand Products Inc., Québec, Canada, is bringing its Greek-style yogurt - Méditerranée - to the American marketplace. The 0% fat line, which is new to the Canadian market, too, includes authentic flavors such as honey, and date and fig. The low-fat version comes in seven flavors, including two new ones: Apple Crumble and French Vanilla.

Yoplait was the last of the national yogurt brands to roll out a Greek-style yogurt. In March, General Mills Inc., Minneapolis, debuted its version, which packs in 12 grams of protein per 6-ounce cup, and claims to nourish from the inside out. Available in four flavors - blueberry, honey vanilla, plain and strawberry - Yoplait Greek has a suggested retail price of $1.19, which the company describes as an affordable price compared to other Greek yogurt products. In addition, the yogurt is fortified with vitamins A and D and is an excellent source of calcium.

At the same time Yoplait Greek rolled out, General Mills debuted Simply Go-Gurt, which the company describes as being made with the simple ingredients moms look for and is free of artificial colors, flavors and sweeteners, including high-fructose corn syrup.

A trend to watch for in coming months will be the increased use of Greek yogurt as an ingredient or base for other products ranging from refrigerated dips to frozen desserts. Santa Barbara Bay, Buellton, Calif., now offers All Natural Greek Yogurt Dips made with Voskos Greek yogurt. Available in five flavor varieties - Cucumber Dill, Thai Three Pepper, Roasted Red Pepper & Asiago Cheese, Zesty Ranch and Spinach - the dips come in 12-ounce tubs.

“Greek-style yogurt is all the rage lately among consumers because of its unique health benefits and its rich, creamy texture,” says Emily Alfano, marketing manager for Santa Barbara Bay. “With this in mind, Santa Barbara Bay is giving consumers what they want: a delicious alternative to traditional sour cream-based dips that today’s health-conscious consumer can feel good about serving to the entire family.”

The company is also on the pure and simple, all-natural trend with is recent introduction of a line of rich, creamy, all-natural dips, salads and spreads, made fresh to order using only all-natural ingredients. They are available in eight varieties: Home-Style Spinach, Creamy Mediterranean, Savory Seafood Spread, Chunky Artichoke, Roasted Garlic Ranch, French Onion, Garden Dill and Seafood Veggie Salad. The new line comes in 12-ounce containers that retail for around $4.99.

“Santa Barbara Bay wanted to create a line of dips made with the freshest, all-natural ingredients for today’s health-conscious consumer,” says Alfano. “The new dips are good for busy families and singles on the go or even for on-the-spot entertaining.”

Health and wellness appeal

Pure and simple leads right into health and wellness, with a number of dairy processors taking some risk with their recent introductions.

In early March at the Natural Products Expo West show in Anaheim, Calif., Lifeway Foods, Morton Grove, Ill., launched Green Kefir with Phytoboost. With all the immunity-boosting benefits of probiotic-rich kefir in a fruit-flavored cultured milk smoothie, Green Kefir packs a powerful nutritional punch with Lifeway’s proprietary blend of phytonutrients, which the company says delivers the disease-fighting antioxidant power of 10 green vegetables plus green tea extract in every serving.

“Expo West is the greenest product showcase in the industry, so we thought it was only fitting to introduce our greenest product ever,” says Julie Smolyansky, CEO. “Packed with 80 milligrams of plant-based polyphenols to neutralize free radicals and protect the body’s delicate immune system, Green Kefir is a great-tasting drink with all the nutrition of a salad in a bottle.”

At the same show, Stonyfield Farm, Londonderry, N.H., introduced yogurt multipacks offering a range of health benefits. Rejuvenation (Strawberry Acai) is a combination of antioxidants, vitamins B3, B5 and B12, and omega-3 fatty acids. The products is designed to help consumer eat well and stay young.

Immunity (Berry Harvest) is designed to enhance the immune system with antioxidants, vitamin B6 and vitamin D. These yogurts are scheduled to hit store shelves in July.

In early March, St. Paul, Minn.-based Old Home Foods debuted Safflower Power, the first yogurt in the United States to be enriched with conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) derived from natural safflower oil and clinically proven to help increase muscle tone and reduce body fat. By integrating just two 6-ounce servings of Safflower Power yogurt into the daily diet, consumers can maintain muscle tone and keep the weight off in as little as eight to 12 weeks when combined with a healthy diet and exercise program, according to the company.

Safflower Power comes in eight varieties - Banana-Mango, Black Cherry, Blueberry, Marionberry, Peach, Pomegranate-Blueberry, Red Raspberry and Strawberry - and debuted in Minnesota grocery stores with a suggested retail price of 83 cents per cup.

Whole grains and fiber are also appearing in more and more cultured dairy foods. The Fiber One brand can now be found on cottage cheese. A half-cup serving of this new low-fat cottage cheese contains only 80 calories and delivers 20% of the DV for fiber.

The Dannon Co., White Plains, N.Y., is expanding its popular Frusion Smoothie line with Frusion Breakfast Smoothie. The drinkable 7-ounce yogurt smoothie contains rolled oats, cereal and 7 grams of protein, which the company says “will fill you up without slowing you down.”

Thanks Colombo, you've been good to us

Often new products or brands come at the expense of others. General Mills is saying goodbye to the Colombo brand this month. Born in Andover, Mass., some 80 years ago, Colombo claims to be America’s first yogurt brand. It was started in 1929 by Robert Colombosian’s Armenian immigrant parents, who today at the age of  84 told his local Gloucester Daily Times that he was disappointed with the decision by General Mills. “It is a big part of my life,” he said. “The worst thing (General Mills) can do is drop the brand. It is the oldest yogurt brand in the United States.”

Heidi Geller, manager of corporate public relations at General Mills, said in a statement that the company decided to drop the Colombo brand to concentrate on the growth of Yoplait. General Mills acquired the brand in 1993 from French cheese company Bongrain, which purchased it from Colombosian in 1977, who says he sold the company to help it grow.

The brand not only grew, it introduced Americans to yogurt and helped make yogurt, and cultured dairy products overall, a delightful business.