Business

Yogurt sales sour as breakfast culture changes

Chobani hopes innovation can reverse trend

U.S. sales of yogurt and yogurt drinks peaked at nearly $9 billion in 2015. (The Gazette)
U.S. sales of yogurt and yogurt drinks peaked at nearly $9 billion in 2015. (The Gazette)

What’s eating yogurt?

Despite shelves full of new varieties — from Icelandic to Australian to coconut-based — U.S. yogurt sales are in a multiyear slump.

Yogurt companies are confident that more new products can boost sales. But some analysts are skeptical, saying larger trends — such as growing sales of protein bars — will be hard to turn around.

“Consumers are just not eating as much yogurt as they once did,” said Caleb Bryant, associate director of food and drink reports for Mintel, a market research company.

U.S. sales of yogurt and yogurt drinks peaked at nearly $9 billion in 2015. In 2019, they’re expected to hit $8.2 billion — down 3.6 percent from 2018, Mintel said.

They’re expected to fall another 10 percent, to $7.4 billion, by 2024.

Chobani — the second-biggest yogurt maker by U.S. market share — thinks innovation can halt that slide. On Monday, the company introduced its first oat-based yogurts, capitalizing on booming sales of oat milk and consumer interest in plant-based eating.

The move follows market leader Danone’s introduction last July of oat-based yogurts under its So Delicious brand.

“If we stay close to the consumer and continue to give them the food they want from a trend perspective and a health perspective, yogurt continues to grow,” Chobani President Peter McGuinness said.

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But for the first time, Chobani also is moving into non-yogurt products. In January, it will launch four flavors of oat drinks as well as dairy-based coffee creamers.

It’s an acknowledgment of market realities: coffee creamer and oat milk sales are climbing even as other products — including Greek yogurt and soy milk — struggle.

Health and animal welfare concerns are driving some Americans away from dairy altogether.

Last week, the nation’s largest milk processor, Dean Foods, filed for bankruptcy protection, citing a decades-long decline in U.S. milk consumption.

McGuinness insists the move isn’t a defensive one, and that Chobani still is bullish on yogurt. The company believed coffee creamers were a good fit as cream is a byproduct of yogurt manufacturing, he said.

And the company is convinced that plant-based eating is a trend with staying power.

“We love yogurt and we still think yogurt is underpenetrated,” McGuinness said.

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