Greek yogurt, the thick, creamy, protein-packed dairy product, has stormed supermarket shelves in the United States. The breakfast favorite’s astonishingly fast growth is epitomized by the success of Chobani—perhaps the best known brand: the company, which began selling Greek yogurt in 2007, saw its sales skyrocket from just over $3 million to more than $1.1 billion in its first five years. Today, Greek Yogurt accounts for roughly half of all yogurt sales in the United States, which is remarkable considering that it was essentially irrelevant less than a decade ago.
But popularity in the American food world can be a fickle thing, and the Greek yogurt business is learning that first hand.
„It’s undeniable that Greek yogurt sales have noticeably begun to mature,“ said a recent analysis by Packaged Facts, an industry research group, which contemplated what the next big yogurt innovation might be.
In this context, mature means evolve—not away from the broader Greek yogurt category, but away from its bread and butter. The simple, straight forward food, sometimes livened with a touch of something sweet. This isn’t to say that Americans aren’t still spooning the creamy yogurt into bowls. Chobani’s yogurt tubs and single serving packets are still the industry’s strongest offering. Also and the category overall is still growing—albeit by a modest 5 percent, according to data from Nielsen. But the no-frills product that won over America’s stomachs—at least in the morning—is less new and exciting than it once was. Just three years ago, industry growth towered above 60 percent.
„Old fashioned Greek yogurt is definitely losing some steam,“ said Jared Koerten, who is a senior food analyst at Euromonitor. „This is something we have been seeing for a couple years now.“
Mostly, the slowdown is a simple matter of fatigue. Americans, having learned about and loved a new food, are now looking for the next thing as they are won’t to do. „We grow tired of things pretty quickly here in the United States,“ said Koerten, who reminds that not long ago frozen yogurt was atop the ice cream world (it’s now „facing oblivion“).
It’s also the result of an increasingly crowded breakfast space. Once a simple meal, centered around cereal, milk, and orange juice (thanks, in large part, to marketing), breakfast now comes in many and varied forms. Greek yogurt has been a staple of this mutation, soaring as cereal has faded.
And the breakfast boom…
The prevalence of options has made it easy for people to try something new, and then stick with it if it suits. The clearest evidence can be found at fast food companies like McDonald’s, where the sales pitch is mostly egg sandwiches, and the morning meal is growing faster than any other segment of the day. Restaurants as a whole, in fact, are enjoying something of a breakfast boom, while people are going out less often for lunch and dinner.
„The good news is that there doesn’t seem to be a next big thing,“ said Koerten. „The breakfast space is very saturated at this point. But there’s nothing really right now that has the sort of potential Greek yogurt did ten years ago.“
Rather than wait until something new pops up or watch as its core product loses its novelty, the Greek yogurt industry is working to make sure it stays relevant. Manufacturers have adjusted their strategy to focus on innovation, addressing both the reality of customer fatigue and the latent possibility of luring Americans into eating the protein-heavy food at other times of the day.
For some companies, that has meant expanding flavor offerings (Yoplait’s Greek yogurt lineup, for instance, now runs 16 flavors deep). For others, it has involved selling smaller, calorie-controlled portions (100 calorie packages have proven wildly popular), or doubling down on ingredients associated with wellness and health.