Dairy processors take note: consumers are showing interest in savory flavors. When people think of yogurt, they usually associate it with sweet flavors. The most popular flavors remain the standards like strawberry, blueberry and vanilla. But the world of yogurt flavor innovation is becoming quite diverse as consumers’ interest in unique flavor combinations continues to grow. And now savory flavors are on consumers’ radar.

While the majority of leading yogurt flavors are sweet, the spread of savory offerings at foodservice and retail may portend the next shift in the category, according to Mintel's 2014 Yogurt and Yogurt Drinks report.

Beth Bloom, food and drink analyst for Mintel, told Dairy Foods “Consumer palates appear to be expanding, moving into more complex flavor profiles like spicy and bitter. I think there’s some influence from international food trends introduced through foodservice.”

The trend opens the door for interesting product innovation and could help expand the category.

Bloom said "it will attract attention due to interest, help the market combat sugar concerns, and expand eating occasions."

She added that this flavor trend is "an opportunity for product development [and] a chance to move beyond the predictable mix of strawberry-banana and key lime pie variations."

Such a shift can attract attention to the category through the offer of a different taste profile, along with expanding eating occasions, to make the products relevant across day parts, according to Mintel.

Yogurt gets some sweet heat

Savory flavors have already been popular in ice cream for a while, especially among artisan ice cream makers, but recently these sweet and savory combos are showing up in mainstream yogurt, too.

As part of its 2016 product release, Chobani, Norwich, N.Y., launched two Flip flavors that feature unique savory and sweet pairings — Sriracha Mango (which features mango low-fat yogurt with sriracha-coated rice crisps, mini sesame sticks and roasted and salted cashew pieces); and Chipotle Pineapple (which features pineapple low-fat yogurt with chipotle granola, smoked almonds and pumpkin seeds). Read more about the company’s latest product launch here.

Chobani has delved into savory flavors previously. Menu offerings at its SoHo yogurt shop, (which opened in New York City in 2012) include plain yogurt topped with hummus, olive oil, a spice mix and lemon zest, and an offering featuring red pepper harissa, feta cheese, fresh mint, sea salt, black pepper and pita chips.

Aussie-style yogurt maker, Noosa Yoghurt, Bellvue, Colo., included a blackberry serrano flavor (what the company calls a “sweet heat”) in its 2016 product release. The flavor is available exclusively in Colorado, Noosa’s home state.

All about savory flavors in dairy products

Though less on the mainstream radar, some companies are going the route of an exclusively savory focus or line up, ditching sweet altogether.

Last summer we wrote about New York, N.Y.-based Blue Hill, which makes yogurt with milk from grass-fed cows, has created veggie-based flavors in six varieties: carrot, beet, tomato, butternut squash, sweet potato and parsnip. Read more about the company and its products here.

Brooklyn, N.Y.-based Sohha Savory Yogurt produces Lebanese-style savory yogurt with no additives or sugar — it’s made with just milk, cultures and sea salt. It sells two varieties — original (which is like creme fraiche) and tangy (a different culture is used to create a smooth and pungent flavor) in 6-, 16- and 32-ounce containers. The company also sells savory dip toppings for its yogurt (in za'atar and sumac  and Everything Bagel flavors) and yogurt drinks. The yogurt is sold at Whole Foods and specialty stores in New York City and at Whole Foods in Massachusetts and Connecticut.

The company got started in 2013 at farmers’ markets and then opened a yogurt stand at Chelsea Market in New York City, where it sold yogurts topped with olive oil infused with the company's own spice blends. The company’s first independent store opens early March in New York.

"I am Lebanese and have always eaten yogurt savory, with oils, olives, za'atar and sumac," said Angela Fout, co-founder of Sohha. Za’atar is a Middle Eastern spice mixture and sumac is a Middle Eastern spice with a sour, fruity and astringent flavor.

Mintel said there’s definitely opportunity for savory yogurt to attract additional attention to the category. The issue for this savory yogurt trend will be whether it can be seen as more than just a novelty. Time will tell.