In recent decades, manufacturers have been playing with one of consumers' favorite foods: Yogurt. Processors have removed sugar from or added fruit and flavoring to yogurt in an attempt to increase sales. The product has also been packaged into drinkable and squeezable forms. But the most recently marketed features of this product have increased demand markedly and it's all about function. The processes used by some manufacturers to create yogurt results in probiotics, a substance with documented health benefits.
All of this activity has captured consumer attention and resulted in a sales growth rate of over 35% in the past five years. Overall, yogurt will have a projected retail market value of over $5.0 billion in 2009. The industry's labeling practices have also caught the attention of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This watchdog agency just solicited input from manufacturers and others regarding product labeling practices for yogurt and will issue new guidelines regarding wording on packaging. One major issue is whether companies that currently use a heat-treating process will be allowed to call their product yogurt.
While the FDA considers what changes might be made in labeling, processors continue to market yogurt to health conscious consumers. In particular, some forms of yogurt ease the discomfort of lactose intolerant consumers, about 25% of the general population. Specific demographics such as Asian Americans, African Americans and Native Americans have higher than average rates of lactose intolerance.
Currently YoPlait/Columbo and Dannon command a 60% market share of the yogurt market. But smaller contenders such as Stonyfield and Fage are gaining market share by segmenting the market into niches for consumers who like Greek yogurt, organic yogurt, or special formulas for babies. As this market continues to grow, your agency may be able to find clients who need help launching new yogurt products.[Sources: Decker, Kimberly. Yogurt Trends, Food Product Design. 3.09.09; SuperMarket Guru, September 2009; General Mills comment document on the FDA site, accessed April 2009]