Probiotics popular in the dairy case

January 10, 2012

Taking their dietary cues from Greece, American consumers focus on digestive health, other benefits.

Financiers don’t see the beauty of Greece right now. Nor do the 18% unemployed in that country. But food lovers do – especially food lovers in the United States, who don’t personally feel Greece’s financial pain, but can benefit from its healthful, uncomplicated food philosophy when shopping in the supermarket.

Crediting the Cretan diet for health and longevity, people are primed to buy more olive oil, Greek yogurt, wines, fresh fruits and vegetables, grain breads, nuts and beans. It wouldn’t surprise us at F3 if Greek cuisine becomes a leader in America’s ethnic food revolution in 2012.

Greek food exports may not save the economy of its homeland, but Greek yogurt in particular has been one amazing sensation in the U.S. dairy case. It has inspired shoppers to pay more than twice the price per ounce for it versus certain brands of non-Greek yogurt, F3 has observed in stores. The segment’s popularity and sales growth has significantly helped yogurt’s category performance overall.

How dramatically??Yogurt dollar sales rose 8.41% to $4.53 billion in the 52 weeks ended October 30, 2011 in U.S. supermarkets, drug stores and mass merchandisers (excluding Walmart), according to Infoscan Reviews of SymphonyIRI Group, a Chicago-based market research firm. This occurred on a 1.10% unit sales decline versus a year ago, leading to a 10 cents increase in the average price per unit of $1.12.

Leading the Greek yogurt charge were:  Agro Farma (Chobani parent), dollar sales soared 152.78% to $534.4 million, on a 148.61% increase in unit sales; and Faje, dollar sales jumped 44.68% to $185.2 million, on a 57.69% rise in unit sales. Also, dollar sales for The Greek Gods brand were up 74.61% to $47.6 million, on a 55.61% unit sales gain, the data show.


The SymphonyIRI Group data doesn’t break out sales for the Greek yogurt products by General Mills (Yoplait) and Dannon (Oikos and Stonyfield Organic Oikos). But a March 2011 report by UBS showed the latest quarter market shares as: Chobani (49%), Faje (22%), Danone (14%), General Mills (5%), and other (10%).

Since health is a sales driver of yogurt, F3 believes the probiotic cultures of kefir – typically triple the amount found in yogurt, notes the National Kefir Association – could drive demand for this beverage, which also has protein, calcium and fiber, and is gluten-free.

??According to combined data for refrigerated kefir, milk substitutes and soymilk from Infoscan Reviews of SymphonyIRI Group, for the same 52-week period in the same outlets as cited above, dollar sales rose 16.60% to $647.4 million. This occurred on a 14.75% unit sales rise, which led to a 5 cents increase in the average price per unit to $3.24.

This growth outpaced the segments’ performance during calendar 2010, when dollar sales jumped 13.07% to $568.8 million. By comparison, dollar sales edged down 0.27% to $503.0 million in calendar 2009.