2017 has been a challenging year for yogurt. Like other dairy products, it’s facing the growing competition from plant-based alternatives, as consumers become increasingly accustomed to free-from offerings. Moreover, yogurt seems to be losing ground as a go-to protein source, as other categories are leveraging consumers' enthusiasm for protein.
As a response, brands of dairy yogurt have tried to refocus and improve their well-known natural health benefits, while reinforcing their indulgence credentials.
Here, Caroline Roux, Global Food & Drink Analyst, takes a look at the key consumer trends shaping the yogurt market and the latest in product innovation.
Functional, but natural
In 2017, we’ve seen more brands communicating about digestive health. In 2017, yogurt accounted for 34% of new foods featuring a digestive health claim, according to Mintel Global New Products Database (GNPD), up from 25% two years earlier. Indeed, consumers still reach out to yogurt for their digestive health. In the US, for example, one third of yogurt users agree that they eat it for aided digestion, while 47% of Spanish users choose it because it’s good for digestive health.
Meanwhile, more yogurts have started highlighting their protein content. Responding to consumer demand, between 2015 and 2017, the share of high protein products in new spoonable yogurt (dairy- and plant-based) increased from 7% to 10%.
Calcium content has also become more relevant than ever. Although plant-based products are not natural sources of calcium, they ‘shout louder’ about fortification than conventional dairy products. In 2017, just 6% of new dairy yogurt claimed to be fortified compared to 22% of plant-based spoonable yogurt. As yogurt remains a widely favourite source of calcium, dairy products have a chance to promote naturally occurring calcium to win a competitive edge over the added calcium in plant-based dairy.
"Clean eating" is one of the newest dietary trends that is taking hold in many countries. In essence, it encourages people to eat real or whole foods that are not processed or are minimally processed, handled and refined.
In 2017, dairy- and plant-based yogurts have responded to consumers wanting reassurance about food. Many brands have looked into improving their natural attributes and health credentials by eliminating unwanted ingredients - particularly sugar - and by giving full disclosure on their manufacturing processes. Mintel research finds that 56% of yogurt consumers in the UK would choose a yogurt with a short ingredients list over one with a long list, while about six in 10 Italian consumers check for added sugar on yogurt packaging.
Focus on indulgence
As a result of their strong positioning on health and wellness, plant-based alternatives lag behind dairy yogurt in terms of indulgence perception - two fifths of Spanish consumers agree that non-dairy yogurts are not as tasty as dairy yogurts.
While brands continue to innovate with unexpected and gourmet flavours, a growing number of yogurt and dessert brands are also elevating texture in their product descriptions as an element of differentiation. Some brands are already calling their products by their texture characteristic, e.g. GÜ Mousse Fusions, Müller Velvet.
The return of fat
Recent innovation around texture has been made possible by the use of more fat. As the risks posed by saturated fats are being re-evaluated in some countries, traditional full fat dairy products have started to be re-introduced in place of lower fat variants, leading to more creamy and indulgent products.
Among products launched in 2017, the average fat content of dairy spoonable yogurt increased by 6% compared to the year before
Yogurt is commonly eaten as a snack at various times of the day. Brands have worked hard to develop formulations that meet the needs of consumers depending on the snacking occasions, with filling and healthy yogurt for the mid-morning occasion and indulgent, gourmet options for post-dinner consumption. However, there is scope for yogurt brands to also innovate in terms of formats. Portable and convenient formats will help yogurt expand usage occasions towards consumption on the go and in-between meals, as well as adding excitement to the category. While yogurt with bits can hit the mark both in terms of flavour and texture.
10 interesting dairy and plant-based yogurts reflecting these trends
Danone Activia Blueberry-Acai Probiotic Yogurt (Canada) contains B.L. Regularis probiotics that are said to contribute to a healthy gut flora. This yogurt has real fruit on the bottom and is free from preservatives, gelatin, and artificial flavours, colours and sweeteners.
Forager Strawberry Creamy Dairy-free Cashewgurt (USA) is a cashew-based, organic yogurt alternative, suitable for vegans and kosher-certified. The product is also free from gluten, lactose, and soy, and contains probiotics.
Danone Oikos Lemon Pie Flavoured Yogurt (Spain) reflects the category’s renewed focus on indulgence. The yogurt features lemon pie and biscuit pieces and combines the world of desserts with the creaminess and permissibility of yogurt.
Mein Q Plain Protein Fitness Base Yogurt (Germany) is described as the ideal base for muesli and smoothies, with only 0.4% fat and a high protein content which helps building muscle.
Stapleton Prune & Date Yogurt (UK) is a low-fat yogurt with sunflower seeds, cereals and grains, with the bits adding extra texture.
Yukijirushi Megmilk Megumi Aloe & Chia Seed and Mixed Acerola Yogurt (Japan) gives an overall health boost to the body thanks to the properties of its superfood ingredients. Two pots come in a mild and refreshing aloe flavour, while the other two are made with antioxidant rich acerola and feature grainy chia seeds.
Brown Cow Organics Carrot & Turmeric Organic Live Yoghurt (UK) is made with vegetables, instead of fruit. The product contains only naturally occurring sugars and features the EU Green Leaf and Organic Soil Association logos.
Apple Cinnamon Ready-to-Eat Overnight Oatmeal w/ Greek Yogurt (USA) is a quick, ready-to-eat breakfast made with oatmeal soaked overnight in apple juice, then mixed with yogurt and fruit. The product contains half a bowl of oatmeal for long lasting energy, half an apple to keep the doctor away and protein packed Greek yogurt.
Raglan Coconut Yogurt Vanilla Bean Coconut Yogurt (New Zealand) is free from dairy, gluten, refined sugar, preservatives, nuts and GMOs, and is suitable for vegans and people on paleo diets. It’s made with coconut yogurt paired with vanilla, which has been used for centuries as an antioxidant and to reduce inflammation and improve mental performance.
Siggi's Raspberry Triple Cream Icelandic-Style Strained Yogurt (USA) contains an exceptional 9% milk fat, which makes this yogurt extra thick and creamy. The all natural product is made with whole milk from grass-fed cows and cream.
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