Greek yogurt is leading the way in new product innovations and helping to keep yogurt on everyone’s radar. Processors continue to introduce new yogurt flavors in Greek and regular, and many are finding new ways to incorporate yogurt into other foods.

Yogurt production rose 4.2% from 2011 to 2012, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).  Since 2000, production is up 142%, and the number of yogurt plants in the United States has grown from 80 to 130 in the last 12 years.

According to a trend report from Chicago-based Technomic Inc., yogurt continues to be a popular snack option for women. The report showed 48% of women surveyed purchased yogurt as a snack for midmorning and 42% as an afternoon snack.

The popularity of yogurt is now going beyond the dairy aisle as well. Shoppers can find Greek and regular yogurt all over the grocery store, as food processors use yogurt as an ingredient in snacks, breakfast cereals and desserts.

Freeport, N.Y.-based Love and Quiches Desserts added a Greek yogurt cheesecake to its line for foodservice. Post Foods, St. Louis, created Honey Bunches of Oats Greek, which features chunks of Greek yogurt in its classic cereal. Franklin Foods, Enosburg Falls, Vt., owners of Greek Mountain Farms, created the first Greek yogurt cream cheese. But it doesn’t stop with just Greek yogurt. Nabisco, a unit of Kraft spin-off Mondelez, brought yogurt to the snack world in a whole new way. It introduced a Strawberry Yogurt Crème flavor for its new Honey Maid grahamfuls filled crackers.

Also on the ingredient side, Greek and regular yogurt are showing up in dips, baby food and smoothies.  Ward Hill, Mass. - based Cedar’s Mediterranean Foods Inc. uses Greek yogurt in its tzatziki dip spread, spinach dip and its newest line of T.G.I. Friday’s yogurt-based dips. Organic baby food maker Sprout Baby, Atlanta, introduced three Superfruit & Greek yogurt-based items for toddlers in squeeze pouches, and Fruity Yogurt Bites to its line last month. Expanding its smoothie options, General Mills’ Yoplait, Minneapolis, added frozen smoothies with Greek yogurt to its line last summer.

With some processors marketing Greek and regular yogurt as a healthy substitute in recipes, that also opens up a whole new marketing angle. Yoplait did just that by developing and marketing low-calorie recipes utilizing its yogurts, according Erica Harris, associate marketing manager at Yoplait. Greek yogurt giant Chobani, Norwich, N.Y., has a kitchen section on its website entirely devoted to recipes using its yogurt.


Flavor and portion trends continue

The innovation with yogurt doesn’t stop with new uses. The focus has also been on bold and unique flavors, flavor pairings and mix-ins.

Chobani introduced five new products in January, many emphasizing unique flavors and portion control. Added to its regular 6-ounce offerings were two new flavors — pear and banana — which were inspired by Chobani fans after numerous requests. With its introduction of Chobani Bite, the company focused on bold flavor — like fig with orange zest and caramel with pineapple — in a snack-size.

“Chobani Bite is our answer to the snack attack. In a smaller, 3.5-ounce cup [it’s] the perfect portion for an afternoon snack,” said John Heath, senior vice president of Innovations at Chobani. “We saw a real gap in the marketplace for a smaller, snack-size cup.”

The creation of its new Chobani Flip follows the trend of ingredient mix-ins for yogurt. Each container’s lid can be flipped to reveal a side compartment with flavored mix-ins. The flavor pairings include Key Lime Crumble, Raspberry Choco Fix and Almond Coco Loco. (Learn more about Chobani Flip in Eat. Drink. Dairy. on page 24)

Wallaby Yogurt Co., American Canyon, Calif., extended its line of Greek yogurt to include organic nonfat Greek yogurt. After having success with its launch of a low-fat Greek yogurt line last year, the company looked to capture an even larger share of the Greek yogurt market with its new nonfat variety. According to Kathy Housman, national sales manager for Wallaby, nonfat yogurts represent the largest segment of competitors’ Greek yogurt sales in the natural channel.

Wallaby’s yogurt features a two-compartment cup, similar to others with side mix-ins, allowing consumers to control the amount of flavor they get with each spoonful. Flavor pairings include lemon, mixed berries, peach and raspberry. The company also recently added a 32-ounce option for its nonfat and low-fat Greek yogurts.

White Plains, N.Y.-based Dannon expanded on its Greek offerings from last year, focusing as much on size offerings as flavors. The company added a 32-ounce option to its Light & Fit Greek, as well as new four-packs in pineapple, peach and raspberry flavors.

When it comes to portion control, Michael Neuwirth, senior director of public relations at Dannon, said, “We see the opportunity for trial via single-serve for yogurt; however, long-term we believe the multipack is far-and-away preferred by customers.”

Also, expanding on its launch of Greek 100 last year, Yoplait added tropical fruit and lemon flavors to the line.

“Consumers are looking for a variety of flavors in their food which includes their yogurt,” said Yoplait’s Harris. She said they continue to see a growing interest in tropical flavors.

Another company adding Greek yogurt offerings this year was YoCrunch, owned by YoFarm Yogurt Co., Naugatuck, Conn. The company introduced Yopa! a new line of authentic, strained Greek yogurt. The flavors include blueberry with granola toppings, vanilla with toasted almond topping and vanilla with dark chocolate pieces topping.

For Stonyfield Farm, Londonderry, N.H., innovation goes beyond the Greek offerings. The company introduced a new Blends yogurt, which is said to be more of a custard-style yogurt. It’s available in six fat-free flavors and five low-fat flavors, including lemon peach mango, blackberry and black cherry. Stonyfield also changed its Oikos Greek yogurt product brand name to Stonyfield Greek in February. The yogurt now has an updated cup design to more prominently feature the fruit ingredients. 


Tapping into a younger market

Another demographic processors are homing in on are children. Many companies have expanded their offerings to the younger generation. The focus is on flavors for some, eye-catching packaging for others. Marketers also use portable options and natural ingredients to appeal to mothers. The products contain moderate amounts of sugar per serving and little or no fat.

As part of its launch of new products in January, Chobani extended its offerings for children with Champions Tubes, a portable option with kid-friendly flavors like Jammin’ Strawberry and Swirlin’ Strawberry Banana. This on-the-go option with all-natural ingredients grabs the attention of busy moms, while the flavors appeal to the children. Each 2.25-ounce Tube contains 8 grams of sugar, 70 calories and 1 gram of fat.

Focusing on flavor and multipack options, Dannon added new mixed-flavor 12-pack varieties of Danimals Smoothies in wild watermelon and strawberry explosion. Each 3.1-ounce bottle contains 70 calories, 14 grams of sugar and 0.5 grams of fat.  The company also markets this as containing no high-fructose corn syrup and no artificial colors or flavors.

Yoplait targeted the preteen market with its introduction of Pro-Force Greek yogurt in January. The 3.5-ounce snack-sized offerings and colorful packaging were specifically designed to appeal to the “tween” crowd. The company also focused on this product’s protein content, which is 9 grams per serving, to appeal to the active youngster. Each serving has 12 grams of sugar, 90 calories and 0 grams of fat.

Also targeting busy moms and on-the-go kids, Stonyfield launched its first organic drinkable yogurt for children. YoKids Smoothies are made with organic fruit and vegetable purees in two flavor combinations, Strawbana and Very Berry. The 3.1-ounce bottles each contain 13 grams of sugar, 70 calories and 1 gram of fat. They also have no artificial ingredients.


Ingredients matter

For many processors, the focus continues to be on grabbing the attention of the health-conscious consumer. 

Hain Celestial Group, Melville, N.Y., makers of The Greek Gods yogurt, focused on the benefits of protein with its new drinkable kefir product. The low-fat cultured milk contains 12 grams of protein and probiotic cultures in each one cup serving. The flavors will mirror the ones offered in its Greek-style yogurt.

For the Bellvue, Colo.-based Noosa, an Australian-style yogurt, the focus is on fresh and natural flavors. The company just added a passion fruit flavor to its line and plans to announce another new flavor in May.

“We believe a continuing trend is fresh, all-natural flavors. We rely on fruit purees to sweeten and flavor Noosa as well as provide our yogurt with complexity,” said Koel Thomae, co-founder of Noosa.

Noosa recently became available nationwide and the processor just completed a state-of-the art plant expansion that quadrupled the size of the company’s manufacturing facility.

Penny Baker, director of marketing at Smith Dairy Products Co., Orrville, Ohio, agrees that the natural trend remains popular. Smith’s Dairy produces sour cream and dips in addition to milk, ice cream and cottage cheese.

“There is an up-tick in natural and organic retail stores and chains sales.  One of the drivers is that consumers are more conscientious about what is in the food they eat as well as its origins,” she said.  “There is a need for less processed and more natural foods with fewer ingredients.”  

With yogurt processors leading the way with innovations and other cultured processors taking note, the opportunities to grow the category can only get stronger from here.


Processors dip into indulgence

Processors of cream cheese, dips and spreads are keeping things interesting as they continue to innovate with new, indulgent flavors.

Kraft Foods’ Philadelphia cream cheese added cinnamon and dulce de leche caramel flavor to its Indulgence spread line. The new flavors play off the indulgent flavor trend showing up on the market everywhere, from ice cream, yogurt to dips. They join the other flavors (milk, dark and white chocolate) which were introduced in January 2012. Learn more about these new flavors in Eat. Drink. Dairy. on page 25. The company also added a new spicy jalapeno cream cheese flavor to its regular spread line.

Also getting creative is the Weight Watchers Cheese brand, licensed by Schreiber Foods Inc., Green Bay, Wis. Its approach is to target a healthier indulgence. The new flavors are whipped, reduced-fat chocolate cream cheese spread and whipped, reduced-fat chocolate raspberry cream cheese. These new spreads have 33% less fat than regular cream cheese, according the company.


Dip away

Makers of dips and sour cream are following suit and also focusing on unique flavors.

Cedar’s Mediterranean Foods following up its launch last year of bold flavored, T.G.I. Friday’s-inspired Greek yogurt dips, with a new line. The company will be co-packing and launching Southern-inspired dips this spring under the Jeff Foxworthy brand. The initial flavors will be collard green, a southern-style spinach dip, Vidalia onion dip and black eye pea hummus.

Orrville, Ohio-based Smith Dairy Products Co. focused on flavor and nutrition with its new all-natural French onion dip. The dip is sold in 16-ounce containers. It is Grade A and pasteurized, KO Kosher-certified and gluten-free. It has no preservatives, stabilizers or artificial ingredients.  “French onion is the No. 1 flavor when it comes to dips,” said Smith Dairy’s Penny Baker.

Baker also noted that for cottage cheese, sour cream and dips, 16-ounce containers continue to be a popular size with consumers.

Also keeping the bold flavors alive, Heluva Good!, a brand of HP Hood LLC, Lynnfield, Mass., added a new limited-edition bacon ranch dip to its sour cream line. The new flavor hit the stores in April.