Thursday, September 26, 2013

Innovative Yogurt Concepts

In the wake of the Greek yogurt craze, which I don’t need to remind you about, yogurt remains a superfood with significant upside, according to a report from Packaged Facts entitled “The Yogurt Market and Yogurt Innovation: Greek Yogurt and Beyond.”

Packaged Facts forecasts that U.S. retail sales of yogurt will approach $9.3 billion by 2017, up from $7.3 billion in 2012. Even with its recent market growth, in the U.S., yogurt continues to be consumed at a much lower per-capita rate than in other countries where yogurt is a staple.

For more information on the Packaged Facts report, visit HERE.
I believe this presents a unique opportunity for specialty and unique brands to create a point of differentiation and attract new users and new use occasions. At the same time, they can command a premium price.

After all, those of us who have been in the dairy industry long enough remember the days when “specialty cheese” meant sharp cheddar. If you look back, the U.S. yogurt market is in a similar place as cheese once was before small niche players entered the business.

Today, specialty cheese is a vibrant category, with consumers paying steep prices for innovative offerings. Emerging innovators in the yogurt business are carving out a niche and teaching consumers that yogurt can be as much of a specialty item as farmstead blue cheese made from grass-fed cows.

Yogurt appeals to consumers' growing interest in healthful eating. From nonfat to whole milk formulations, yogurt is packed with nutrients that consumers recognize as being better for them. This includes protein, essential fatty acids, vitamins, minerals and live and active cultures.

Flavor Trends
When it comes to flavor trends, Innova Market Insights tells us that fruit flavors still dominate the yogurt market. In fact, fruit flavors were featured in more than two-thirds of global launches recorded by Innova in the 12 months to the end of March 2013, rising to three-quarters of the U.S. total and nearly 70% in Latin America. This encompasses a wide range of different types of fruit, from more traditional strawberry and peach to more unusual such as papaya, damson and coconut.

Plain, natural or unflavored yogurts are the second most popular option globally, featuring in about 12% of introductions, but again this varies, depending on regional and cultural preferences for plain yogurt, with levels rising to over 22% in Asia, but falling to less than 5% in the U.S. Brown flavors, such as chocolate and caramel, took third place globally, ahead of vanilla.

According to my friend Lu Ann Williams, who is the director of innovation at Innova Market Insights, “The yogurt market is generally showing good growth, and this is reflected in terms of new product activity, where levels are continuing to rise globally. With an increasingly competitive marketplace, the need for product differentiation has led to developments in flavors over recent years, most notably into more up-market and complex options, often featuring a number of different ingredients, sometimes with formulations taken from other sectors of the market, such as desserts, bakery and confectionery.” She also notes that companies are trying to ring in the changes with increasing numbers of limited-edition and seasonal options.

The split-pot concept has helped to move the level of flavor sophistication forward. This has allowed for the addition of sauces and purees, as well as inclusions such as chocolate, candies or mini-cookies, which can be used with plain or flavored yogurt to add further interest in terms of texture.

Originally confined to dual-compartment pots, the market has now extended to include three-compartment pots, permitting wider options in terms of the number and type of ingredients that can be offered. For example, Ehrmann has been a leader in this area with its Almighurt Nach Herzenslust (for our Heart’s Desire) range, first launched in Germany in 2011 in a heart-shaped three-compartment pot. The latest addition to the range in 2013 is Zitronen-Käsekuchen & Knusperwaffeln (Lemon Cheesecake with Crispy Wafers) variant. This features vanilla yogurt in the main pot, and lemon sauce and crisp wafer pieces in the two smaller pots.

On Thursday, September 26th, I had the opportunity to walk the floor of Expo East in Baltimore, MD. From numerous conversations with varied food and beverage manufacturers, including yogurt marketers, as well as my continuous tracking of flavor trends, I am very comfortable making the following flavor predictions for yogurt. Some of these are already appearing in the marketplace, as you will see in the 15 product lines identified further in this blog.

Here are my “Big Five” flavor predictions for yogurt:
  1. Maple—alone or with another layer of flavor, either sweet or salty, as maple possesses both tastes, which makes it very complementary. Why maple? It’s a natural progression from honey being using as a sweetener and as a characterizing flavor in Greek yogurt. It’s also bolder than caramel, which remains popular, and thus appeals to consumers’ adventurous taste buds.
  2. Cinnamon—not necessarily alone, but with fruit or even maple! Cinnamon is a comforting flavor that possesses a healthful, healing halo, and also delivers some kick, not quite as much as one gets in a stick of Big Red gum, but still some kick. This is particularly appealing to consumers who appreciate Hispanic flavors.
  3. Ginger, same story as cinnamon, but with ginger, the association is with Asian cuisine.
  4. Cherry is the next berry. (When my husband proofread this, he declared, “Berry in dairy might be replaceable but “Berry On Dairy” is not. Thanks honey!) Cherry, in its many varietals, is quickly becoming very trendy in beverages and this will carry over to yogurt, as well as other dairy foods. Cherries have many recognized health benefits and this is resonating with consumers. 
  5. Chocolate bits, chips, flakes and pieces, are the trendy inclusion in all types of foods, and yogurt is destined to be next. If the chocolate is dark, it gives consumers permission to indulge, as they accept the fact that dark chocolate is a concentrated source of heart-healthy antioxidants.
The Next Generation of Frozen Yogurt
Greek continues to be the word…but there’s so much more beyond the pint and stick novelty. Think innovative shapes and sizes.

“While ice cream remains the largest segment of the ice cream and frozen novelties market, sales dipped following the economic downturn. The expanding array of snack options, as well as a lack of product innovation, contributed to this performance,” according to Beth Bloom, food and drink analyst at Mintel. “In contrast, the frozen yogurt segment has benefited from a perfect storm of factors, including the growing popularity of yogurt among U.S. consumers, the growing acceptance of frozen yogurt as a snack, and a perception of a higher health profile that coincides with increased attention placed on better-for-you products.”

Recently Introduced On-Trend Innovations

Let’s Start with the Package

In case you missed the Daily Dose of Dairy showcasing Chobani’s new pouch package, you can check it out HERE. This package makes Greek yogurt more portable.

This package positions yogurt as an artisan delicacy. You can almost see it being sampled by “yogurt mongers” in a specialty yogurt section of a grocery store.

From Traders Point Creamery, the company showcases its European-style whole milk yogurt in unique 5-ounce glass jars sealed with foil, similar to traditional European yogurt pots. Made with organic milk from strictly grass-fed cows, product labels tout the fact that the grass-fed milk is an inherent source of omega-3 fatty acids and conjugated linoleic acid. Individual pots sell at a premium, about $2.00 each.

There are four whole milk varieties--Banana Mango, Plain, Raspberry and Wildberry—as well as a low-fat Plain. For more information, visit HERE.

This company wants you to feel what its product can potentially deliver. Designed by food scientists with input from trainers and sport nutritionists, with men as the target consumer, Powerful Yogurt is an all-natural, high-protein yogurt that claims to offer health benefits beyond basic nutrition.

The company’s patent-pending packaging has “abs” molded into the cup to communicate to men how the high-quality protein in Powerful Yogurt can assist with building their six-pack.

Focus on Protein

At Expo East, Powerful Yogurt introduced a maple-flavored Greek yogurt, growing the line to seven flavors. An 8-ounce cup, a manly serving size, provides 21 grams of dairy protein.

“Innovation and continuous improvement is what drives Powerful Yogurt,” said Founder and CEO Carlos Ramirez, who I had the pleasure to meet, along with his incredible staff, on the expo floor. “Our great-tasting new maple flavor is a sign of our commitment to keep the ‘yogurt for men and active lifestyles’ category exciting and different as we pioneer it from the ground up.”

Named “Best Yogurt” earlier this year at the 2013 Dairy Innovation Awards, Powerful Yogurt is differentiated from existing Greek yogurts by its 20 to 25 grams of protein, depending on variety, a serving size that is 50% larger than most individual-serving Greek yogurts, and marketing and packaging that speaks to male consumers and the active lifestyle. For more information, visit HERE.

Combining sweet flavors with a savory twist, The Greek Gods brand from The Hain Celestial Group Inc., is introducing Honey Salted Caramel Yogurt. This new flavor comes in a convenient 24-ounce family-sized container. For more information, visit HERE.

AtlantaFresh Artisan Creamery has developed a line of artisanal Greek yogurts made from “milk from humanely treated, fully pastured, grass-fed Georgia cows,” according to the company.

The product comes in multiple fat levels in a range of flavors, including: Bananas Foster, Black Cherry & Port Wine, Maple Bacon, Peach & Ginger, Strawberry Basil Balsamic and Tropical Sweet Heat.
For more information, visit HERE.

Rich and Indulgent
Dreaming Cow Yogurt makes New Zealand-style cream-top (non-homogenized) yogurt using milk from the family-owner’s own grass-fed cows in Georgia. Flavors include Honey Pear, Maple Ginger and Vanilla Agave. For more information, visit HERE.

The Tillamook County Creamery Association recently added dessert yogurts to its lineup. The three-flavor line is made with no artificial colors, flavors or sweeteners, as well as no high fructose corn syrup. The dessert line is made with fruits and honey sourced from the Pacific Northwest. Varieties are: Honey Cinnamon Crème Brûlée, Marionberry Cobbler and Peach Raspberry á la Mode. The dessert yogurts come in family-size 24-ounce containers and have a suggested retail price of $4.29.
For more information, visit HERE.

Retail giant Safeway introduces a line of single-serve (5.5-ounce) dessert yogurt cups under its private-label Lucerne brand. There are three flavors: Cinnamon Roll, Raspberry Torte and Strawberry Cheesecake. They are all based on nonfat yogurt and include a cake base flavor as well as flavored chips that deliver an interesting texture.

Focus on Ingredients

Noosa shows off how its Australian-style yogurt is loaded with premium fruit by packing it in clear containers. For more information, visit HERE.

Yoplait places an emphasis on the fruit content of its new Yoplait Fruitful, with each 6-ounce cup containing one-third cup of real fruit. The yogurt also happens to be made from whole milk. Varieties are: Blueberry, Cherries & Red Berries, Mango Pineapple & Orange, Peach, Pineapple and Strawberry.

For more information, visit HERE.

Yoplait is also bragging about everything that its newly reformulated Yoplait Go-GURT yogurt does not contain. That is no high fructose corn syrup, or artificial colors or flavors.

“Our consumers expressed their need for a product that doesn’t contain high fructose corn syrup for their kids and we listened and acted,” says Justin Conzemius, Yoplait associate marketing director. “For the past year, we have been working on a product that would achieve those goals, yet continue to deliver a product that kids found fun and delicious.”

“We know that sugar is a concern for parents and that parents desire more natural products,” says Melissa Haase, Yoplait research and development. “While there were hurdles with the new reformulation, we were also able to reduce the sugar by 1 gram and lower the calories from 70 to 60 calories per serving.”
For more information, visit HERE.

Fresh from the Freezer
Two new flavors, Raspberry and Chocolatey Chip, join Ruggles’ popular Lowfat Greek Frozen Yogurt line. Ruggles Chocolatey Chip Lowfat Greek Frozen Yogurt is chocolate yogurt with dark chocolate morsels, while Ruggles Raspberry Lowfat Greek Frozen Yogurt features raspberry yogurt with raspberry puree. The new flavors join Blueberry, Peach, Strawberry and Vanilla Bean flavors in pints and single-serve 4-ounce containers.

“Greek yogurt has a loyal following for its taste, and has become incredibly popular with those consumers looking for a healthy all-natural frozen treat,” says Penny Baker, director of marketing for Ruggles. “Our Lowfat Greek Frozen Yogurt has at least double the protein of regular frozen yogurts and also has live and active cultures for digestive health.”

The pints have a suggested retail price of $4.99, while the single-serving 4-ounce cups sell for about $1.49. Each single-serving cup also includes a spoon for convenience.

For more information, visit HERE.

A Peak at Two of Next Week’s Daily Dose of Dairy Products

Rich Products Corp., has fashioned a new dessert category with the launch of the first-ever Greek frozen yogurt bar cakes and cupcakes.
(Look for them as a Daily Dose of Dairy on Tuesday, October 1st.)

Tarté Asian Yogurt is a lighter, less sweet style than most flavored yogurt, yet it is still very smooth and creamy and with a higher protein yogurt. (This new product line will be featured as a Daily Dose of Dairy on Monday, Sept. 30th.)

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