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There’s Too Much Yogurt

Recent data indicate that yogurt sales are declining because of the innumerable options on grocery store shelves

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Brenna Houck is a Cities Manager for the Eater network. She previously edited Eater Detroit and reported for Eater. You can follow her on the internet at @brennahouck.

The feverish yogurt boom is over. Or, then again, maybe yogurt makers are just getting started. Data on the yogurt market show that U.S. yogurt sales are declining after years of explosive growth that begat a veritable smorgasbord of interpretations of the creamy, fermented goo (See: Greek! Icelandic! French! Probiotic!) on grocery store shelves. Has America reached peak yogurt or is the industry on the cusp of convincing consumers to eat skyr at every meal?

Dueling prognosticators seem to illustrate two different views on the yogurt trend — one optimistic and one more convincingly pessimistic. A market research firm called Packaged Facts released a report forecasting that U.S. yogurt sales would reach roughly $9.8 billion by 2022, according to USA Today, thanks to projected population increases and inflation. A firm called Mintel, however, predicts only $8.2 billion in sales by 2022 — a decline of 3.5 percent from the present. Mintel also observed that consumers were eating slightly less yogurt on average in 2018 than they were in 2017. Nielsen and Euromonitor data compiled by the Wall Street Journal also backs up Mintel’s analysis that yogurt sales are beginning to level out and fall — that is with the exception or Icelandic skyr yogurt, non-dairy options, and yogurt smoothies.

Dueling prognosticators seem to illustrate two different views on the yogurt trend — one optimistic and one more convincingly pessimistic. In the first case, USA Today framed the story around the opportunities for growth in the U.S. market. Greek yogurt giant Chobani’s chief marketing officer Peter McGuinness characterizing the drop in yogurt sales as a “natural progression of a maturing category.” He even speculated that sales for yogurt could someday reach $13 billion. In the latter piece by the Wall Street Journal, McGuinness also acknowledged that yogurt companies had essentially created their own problem by clobbering customers with way too many yogurt options at once. “It’s self-inflicted,” he says. One marketing agency Acosta reported that there are a staggering 306 different types of yogurt at the average grocery store.

So how will Big Yogurt get Americans to eat more yogurt? With even more choices, of course. Companies like Chobani and Dannon are releasing lower sugar yogurt options, vegan yogurt, and yogurts marketed towards the children of millennials. The brands are also trying to make yogurt more of a snack than a breakfast food.

Yogurt may be facing a more challenging future, but it’s not alone in the dairy sector. The milk industry is also facing falling sales as consumers decamp for alternative non-dairy “milk” products.

Yogurt Makers Change Culture, Look to Expand Beyond Breakfast to Grow Sales [USA Today]
Yogurt Sales Sour as Options Proliferate [WSJ]