Thanks to a host of all-natural products and a mission to remain authentic, Fage takes charge of the Greek yogurt category by just being true to itself and to its consumers.<

Marina Mayer   Executive Editor

When it comes to Greek yogurt, there are usually a few buzzwords that come to mind - authentic, natural and healthy, just to name a few. But when it comes to describing Greek yogurt from Fage, well, it’s just plain extraordinary.

That’s because Fage yogurt isn’t just your run-of-the-mill traditional yogurt. In addition to pairing up with other breakfast items or being used as a snack, Fage yogurt also is developed as a healthy cooking alternative to sour cream, mayonnaise and fresh cream.

“Our yogurt, with its rich history, taps into a strong consumer demand for products that are authentic, original and all natural,” says Russell Evans, marketing director for Fage USA Dairy Industry, Inc., a subsidiary of Fage, based in Greece. “Our 85-plus years of history have been guided by the principle of providing the very best to our consumers. We treat them the same as we would our own family.”

Fage Greek-strained yogurt is made using a proprietary process that blends 100% all-natural ingredients with whole milk, cream and cultures supplied from rBGH-free cows. Unlike some of the flavored yogurts out there, Fage yogurt doesn’t contain any added sweeteners, thickeners or preservatives and no powdered milk, powdered cream or powdered protein. Other label-friendly terms include protein rich, gluten-free, vegetarian and diabetic and pregnancy friendly.

“Our product appeals to all consumers who demand great taste and quality,” Evans notes. “To put it simply, Fage Total delivers what we all desire - a high-protein, low-carbohydrate and low-fat indulgence that is truly healthy. We see our product as an attainable indulgence for all.”

The lineup of Fage products includes a variety of fat contents and packaging.  Fage Total 0% is available in 6-, 17.6- and 35.3-ounce containers. Fage Total 2% and Fage Total come in 7-, 17.6- and 35.3-ounce packages. Fage also offers 5.3-ounce split cups in Fage Total 2% and Fage Total Classic paired with blueberry, cherry, peach, strawberry and honey offerings.

Earlier this year, Fage introduced Total 0% with fruit flavors, which is a rich and creamy fat-free option that comes in plain, cherry-pomegranate, blueberry acai, honey, mango guanabana and strawberry goji flavors in 5.3-ounce split cups.

“The heart of our business is built around our unique and delicious Fage Total plain yogurt and is led by our top-selling plain 0% 6-ounce cup,” Evans says. “The recent introduction of our 0% fruit cups has seen tremendous success with sales growth of 150%. The fruit cups are quickly becoming an important part of Fage Total’s family of products.”

Historically simple

Fage started in 1926 when Athanassios Filippou opened a small dairy shop in Athens that provided creamy, one-of-a-kind yogurt. In 1954, Filippou brought in his sons, Iaonnis and Kyriakos, to help create the first wholesale distribution network for yogurt in Greece. By 1964, the Filippou sons opened Fage’s first yogurt and pastry production facility in Galatsi, Athens. Eleven years later, the Fage yogurt plant relocated to Metamorfiso in Attica, where it introduced branded yogurt products to the Greek market. These products, which carried the Fage trademark, were sold in smaller sealed tubs with attractively designed packaging.

Then, in 1998, Fage began exporting yogurt to New York City, grossing more than 2,000 tons by 2004. That’s when Fage developed a state-of-the-art, 145-000-square-foot yogurt production facility in Johnstown, N.Y., which now employs more than 170 full-time people and distributes nationally to specialty and natural food stores, including supermarket chains.

“We have invested $148 million to create a highly automated and specialized plant that allows us to make our authentic recipe with the highest standards of hygiene and safety,” Evans says.    

“Historically at Fage, we have always produced an all-natural product with only a few key ingredients,” he adds.

Today, the dairy giant is Greece’s largest dairy company, producing milk, cheese and yogurt worldwide. The Fage Total brand is also the fifth largest brand in the U.S. yogurt category, according to Chicago-based SymphonyIRI Group.

“Today we are still guided by the same principles of providing our consumer with healthy, authentic products and never compromising on quality,” Evans says. We are proud to play a leadership role in the food industry’s shift toward healthier products.”

Marketing made simple

Fage’s growing business is a direct result of the passion from its loyal consumers, Evans says. “This phenomenal ‘word of mouth’ has helped establish Fage Total as the first Greek yogurt brand in the U.S.,” he adds.

However, consumers are just part of the puzzle. Fage’s growth spurt is also due in part to its several marketing initiatives.

Under its “Plain Extraordinary” TV campaign, for example, Fage recently launched three commercials that “exemplifies our commitment to the brand and our unique premium positioning in the market,” Evans explains. One video starts out with a sea of yogurt that whips into surfboarding waves, then splashes together with honey and blueberry and spills over a yogurt-drenched cow. The second video features a porcelain woman draped in a sea of yogurt and the third one shows a cow plunging through a sea of yogurt. The ads were produced by Mullen, a Boston-based advertising agency.

“Our products and marketing programs are designed to work across all channels of trade,” Evans says. “We are seeing tremendous success for Fage Total in mass merchandisers and supermarkets and are looking forward to continued momentum in the foodservice channel.”

Fage also launched the The Fa-Yeh Away Tour 2011, where they tour the country and deliver free samples of Fage Total.

“Dairy plays an important part in the American diet, but constant innovation will be necessary to maintain this position,” Evans says. “The yogurt industry is going to continue to evolve as the American consumer looks increasingly for products that are truly authentic and all-natural like Fage Total. We see ourselves continuing to lead this growth and we are very excited about the future.”

Greek yogurt has carved out its own niche in the dairy world, but for companies like Fage, it’s all just plain extraordinary.