Greek yogurt—namely Chobani—made its debut in the U.S. at the onset of the Great Recession in 2007. Its success defied logic…or did it? Here was this new yogurt concept with a higher retail price tag in a smaller cup size than any other yogurt in the marketplace. Yet, with its claims of higher protein and less sugar, and its unique texture and taste, the product thrived. Well, it did more than that and ever since, we have all been wondering what will be the next transformative concept in the dairy case?
This week during Trends and Innovations, a part of the Sosland Publishing Webinar Series, Stephanie Mattucci, associate director of food science for Mintel, suggested that kefir has the potential to be that product.
Let me back up. She first identified immunity as one of the three key health areas emerging from the pandemic where food and beverage innovators should focus their efforts. The other two are eye health (from all that screen time) and mental health (from that non-discriminating coronavirus disrupting our lives).
Between 2016 and 2020, the percentage of global food and drink products with an immunity function increased 22%, according to Mintel data. In the U.S., 86% of consumers agree eating healthy is important for a strong immune system, said Mattucci. Immunity was top of mind before the pandemic. The past year or so raised awareness of the connection between diet and immunity.
“Immune health will still be important to many consumers, even after the vaccine,” she said. “It’s all about staying healthy against many illnesses. It is especially critical until the youngest population can get vaccinated.”
“This presents potential for immune health, with probiotics, prebiotics and even the newly arriving post-biotics,” she said. “They can really play a role in functional food and drink products to help consumers support their immune system by supporting their microbiota.”
“Retailers were reluctant to bring new innovations to shelves during the pandemic. For kefir, an essential, they increased shelf space dramatically,” says Smolyansky. “This shows that consumers are becoming more aware of kefir and buying at a higher velocity.”