It’s All Greek to Yogurt Lovers

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Americans are having a love affair with Greek yogurt.

Nielsen reported last October that, “Despite the 121% higher average equivalized price of Greek yogurt compared to non-Greek yogurt, sales continue to sky rocket. Over the past 52 weeks ending October 2, 2010, Greek yogurt dollar and unit sales are up 160% and 203% respectively, while non-Greek yogurt dollar and unit sales are up 3% and 1%.”

Nielsen attributes the popularity of Greek yogurt to health, convenience, and taste. So get ready for the Greek yogurt brands to start fighting it out for superiority. Agro Farma’s Chobani, the top seller in the U.S., spent only $209,000 to advertise the brand in 2009. Now the company is launching an estimated $13 million integrated media campaign.[more]

Greek yogurt — “thicker, creamier, less sweet and with more protein,” says the New York Times — is perceived by American consumers to be healthier than ordinary yogurt. Phil Lempert, editor of a food industry newsletter, told the Times, “Consumers are finally discovering what yogurt is supposed to taste like, without all those sweeteners, coloring and preservatives, and are willing to pay more for it.”

Chobani’s campaign, featuring TV commercials including the one above, billboards, social media, and a revised website writes Stuart Elliott in the Times, is designed “to encourage ‘real’ fans of the brand to share their ‘real love stories’ by submitting video clips, photographs and comments.”

Agro Farma selected consumers who told them stories about their love for Chobani via social media to feature in the campaign. Peter McGuinness, CEO at Gotham, the ad agency that developed the Chobani campaign, commented to Elliott, “We did not want a ‘corporate-out’ campaign. We wanted a ‘consumer-up’ campaign, to tap into and extend the ‘Chobani love’ that is rapidly spreading across the country.”

Kraft will counter with a campaign breaking the end of this month for its new Athenos brand Greek yogurt, including a major Facebook push. Kraft markets hummus and other Greek products under the Athenos brand name but only recently introduced a “Greek strained” non-fat yogurt line. 

Other Greek yogurt brands currently on the market include Fage, Oikos, and Yoplait Greek. According to Symphony IRI, a market research firm, Chobani had $257.3 million in sales, excluding Walmart, for the 52-week period ending January 23, 2011. That was an increase over the same period a year earlier of almost 226%. Fage had sales of nearly $142 million (up more than 66%) followed by Oikos at $55 million (up almost 54%).

The success of Greek yogurt has even led to sub-categories. Last month, for example, Chobani Champions was launched as the “first Greek yogurt for children.” 

Clearly, when it comes to yogurt, Americans want to go Greek.

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