Healthy Choices

Yogurt market gets creative as craze over Greek variety fades

Ever tried French Vietnamese Goji Pomegranate yogurt? What about a cup of New Zealand-style Maple Ginger cream top?

These novelties, and a slew of other globally inspired yogurt brands, are filling more and more slots on the dairy shelf as people search for the next big thing in their high-protein breakfast option. The once-prolific Greek yogurt is starting to reach its limits, experts say, and brands are battling to establish a new cream of the crop.

Perhaps most compelling among the new options is skyr, a traditional Icelandic yogurt that’s even thicker and tangier than the Greek variety. Packing 14 grams of protein and zero percent milk fat, products from New York-based skyr company Siggi’s have been featured on “The Dr. Oz Show” and in Men’s Health magazine, and are now available at Safeway, Raley’s and Target. They’ve recently added a Swedish-style drinkable yogurt called Filmjölk.

Smári, another Iceland-inspired company boasting even higher protein offerings, has received similarly positive press. Both are big sellers at the Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op, said grocery manager Gina Disney. Greek and Icelandic styles are very popular because of their high protein content, and Siggi’s yogurt’s low sugar and fat count make it a perfect snack for low-carb/high-protein diets, she said.

The public’s desire for a healthier option is part of what has allowed Greek yogurt to dominate the market in the past few years, said George Puro, president of Puro Research Group and author of the January study, “The Yogurt Market and Yogurt Innovation.”

The study showed that the yogurt market on the whole is still on the rise, reaching $8.9 billion in 2014 – a 3.4 percent increase from the previous year. Greek yogurt specifically grew from making up just 1 percent of the market in 2007 to 52 percent in 2014.

While it continues to outpace the overall yogurt category, Greek yogurt’s growth is slowing notably, the report found. Puro said he believes it’s the result of too many big-name yogurt brands hopping on the wagon.

“The market has had, in the last few years, really explosive growth because of this craze for Greek yogurt,” Puro said. “That’s probably peaked to some degree. Now what’s happening is yogurt makers who are continually innovating are trying to figure out what’s next.”

Safeway’s yogurt section is almost overwhelmingly full, stocking everything from Pavel’s Original Russian Yogurt to Elli Quark German-style spoonable cheese, which claims on its website to have half as many calories and 15 percent more protein than Greek yogurt. Noosa Finest Yoghurt – a Colorado company with an Australian recipe book that’s been hitting major markets in recent years – was purchased this fall by major equity firm Advent International.

Dawn Dunlap, health and nutrition educator at the co-op, said those seeking to maintain a healthy diet can consider most yogurts a good bet. Yogurts that contain probiotics, or populations of beneficial live bacteria, have digestive benefits, she said, and the snack is also an important source of vitamins B6 and B12.

The only downside to look out for when shopping for yogurt, she said, is sugar.

“You want to look at the ingredient list – some add sugar, and some use actual sugar from the fruit itself,” she said. “I would make the choice of the whole foods versus the added sugar. We want to limit sugar in our diet.”

Ryan Ferguson and Megan Acob, a pair of shoppers found perusing the yogurt section at the co-op recently, said they eat the dairy product in snacks, dessert and tuna salad. For Ferguson, who said he’s tried everything from Greek to goat’s milk yogurt, it’s just about simplicity of ingredients.

“It’s awesome to be alive now and have all the different types available,” he said. “The less that I can have in my body, the better for me for sure.”

Call The Bee’s Sammy Caiola, (916) 321-1636.

Fat, protein, sugar

How three yogurt brands compare:

Siggi’s

Chobani

Noosa

Serving size (oz)

5.3

5.3

8

Sugar (grams)

11

15

28

Protein (grams)

14

12

14

Fat (calories)

0

0

11

Total calories

110

130

280

Source: products’ nutrition labels

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