A few years ago, acai berries were the healthy food craze, then coconut water, and now Greek yogurt has taken the top spot.
According to Innova Market Insights, nearly 8% of all yogurt launches in the world were Greek or Greek-styled from June 2011 to June 2012, and 29% of the 300 yogurt products tracked in the US were Greek.
Out of the top four Greek yogurts in the country, Chobani is the number one seller, fol- lowed by Dannon, Fage, and General Mills' Yoplait brand.
"This isn't a trend. It's here to stay," explains dietitian Nicki Briggs, director of communications at Agro Farma, Chobani's parent company. "For another firm to bring a new product to market means there has to be consumer demand."
Chobani has been busy this year with its Team USA Olympic sponsorship, the launch of its children's Greek yogurt line, and the opening of its flagship Chobani Soho café in New York. PR has played a key role in promoting the brand.
No paid media has gone into the café, which launched in July. Chobani raised awareness through blogger outreach, in-store samplings, and social media activation. Its Soho Twitter handle went live in July to give consumers inside access to yogurt offerings at the café.
Sweet and savory selection
Chobani's Soho café offers unique yogurt creations, such as plain Chobani with olive oil, sea salt, black pepper, and pita chips, and the brand hands out recipe cards to customers.
“The approach for this is really a one plus one equals three,” explains Briggs. “You have this pure, delicious yogurt and these Mediterranean-inspired simple ingredients, but together they really heighten the flavor of each other.”
She says the purpose is to enhance the yogurt's flavor and show consumers “there's much more to yogurt than eating it out of a cup.”
The Dannon Company, Chobani's closest competitor in the Greek space, also opened a restaurant in July in New York called The Yogurt Culture Company, but without branding it "Dannon," says Michael Neuwirth, senior director of PR at the firm. Dannon Greek launched in 2010, changing the name to Dannon Oikos in 2011.
In 2013, Dannon will promote the importance of including yogurt in meals, especially at breakfast time.
"The average American eats yogurt very infrequently, so we want to change the behavior of people in terms of incorporating yogurt into their daily diet," Neuwirth adds.
To support the brand's nutritional value, especially its Greek Light & Fit 80-calorie line, which debuted at BlogHer in August, Dannon will launch digital promotions, engage bloggers, and enhance social media.
Yoplait also introduced its Greek 100-calorie yogurt at BlogHer, using its low-calorie content as a key promotion tool. The brand also leveraged the fact it's the only Greek yogurt endorsed by Weight Watchers, says Michael Harad, business unit and marketing director at General Mills.
Events have been a major part of Yoplait's communications plan, with the brand launching the Yoplait Greek 100 Helps You Get Red Carpet Ready program during pre-Emmy events in Los Angeles. The campaign, which garnered 32 million impressions for digital media and PR, engaged celebrities, media, and guests. Nancy O'Dell, Entertainment Tonight co-anchor, also helped host a Red Carpet Ready blogger event for the initiative.
Despite increased competition, Chobani isn't slowing down. By the end of 2012, the brand will open its second production facility in the US in Idaho, which will be the largest yogurt factory in the world.
"We think the yogurt story in America is just beginning," adds Lauren Naru, VP at AOR Fleishman-Hillard and account lead for Chobani.
Briggs says the brand is worried about how some companies are promoting their products as Greek without using the correct straining process.
"If a consumer's first taste is one of these non-authentic products that has stabilizers and thickeners added, it's not going to taste as good," she explains. "They're going to decide they don't like Greek yogurt, so it will stall the growth of the whole category and that concerns us."