Maybe it’s a new twist on comfort food for challenging times, but the biggest hit in the yogurt section of the supermarket these days is full-bodied, full-flavor Greek yogurt.
Brands such as Stonyfield Farm’s Oikos and 3 Greek Gods, now owned by Hain Celestial, have been trying to meet booming demand for tasty Greek-style yogurt, which is thicker, creamier and generally higher in protein and, often, fat than regular yogurt. Pioneering brands such as the imported Fage yogurt are now being joined by mainstream CPG players, who are eager to meet the growing American demand for Greek yogurt.
Kraft plans to expand its Athenos brand of hummus and other Mediterranean fare to include Greek yogurt nationwide in January. Athenos Greek yogurt is available in select US markets now, in response to demand from some 85,000 Facebook fans.
“Two years ago, if you described this as a niche, you were almost giving it too much credit,” Gary Hirshberg, CEO of Stonyfield Farm, told brandchannel. “But today it is a $200-million to $300-million segment, headed toward $500 million, and every major player is leaping into it.”
Credit in part a healthy mystique that original brands such as Fage were able to create around Greek-style yogurts. More recently, a major growth factor in the U.S. has been the fact that all of the big players in the segment have come out with low- or no-fat versions.
“That’s what it takes to work in the U.S. market,” Hirshberg said. “Now, like any rapidly growing segment, in Greek you’re seeing a tremendous diversification of flavors and packaging. We even have a chocolate Greek yogurt that no Greek would understand.”
Kraft plans to bring even more such variety with Athenos Greek yogurt, which will be priced at a significant discount to other Greek-style brands. And Athenos yogurt in single servings will come with “toppings” – such as strawberry, peach, blueberry or honey – on the side so that the yogurt stays fresher and consumers can flavor their yogurt to taste.
So far, Americans have been giving a big “Opa!” to Greek yogurt during difficult economic times, despite its premium pricing. Athenos may make it even easier to go Greek.