The resident economist shot over a random post yesterday from Slate about NPD Group’s announcement that the Food of the Decade is (drumroll please)…yogurt. According to Harry Balzer of NPD, the percentage of Americans who consume yogurt regularly went up from 17% in 2000 to something like 28% by the end of the decade. That’s a lot of yogurt. And not surprisingly, marketing has had a lot to do with that, with companies having introduced over 1,200 new yogurt products to the market since 2005 according to market research firm, Mintel.
We’re all familiar with the game-changers: Yoplait’s tubular Go-Gurt, which you can freeze and stick in a kid’s lunchbox, made yogurt more accessible to kiddies, and then of course there were those seriously seductive claims by Dannon’s Activia that bifidus regularis was gonna make you poop as regularly as Jamie Lee Curtis, the Redeemer for all the Constipated. Despite all the snickering, Activia’s move to start a public dialogue on how frequently we move our bowels paid off big time, resulting in over $130 million in sales its first year followed by a 50% increase in the second year. Furthermore, the yogurt trend is far from over. Compared to the decades-long obsession with probiotics and the relentless campaigns against constipation that I’ve witnessed in Japan (to say nothing of Germany), the Activia Challenge represents just the tip of the iceberg in terms of how much more yogurt (and yogurt-based products) we could potentially sell in this country by leveraging the all-important issue of blockage.
It’s a discourse that’s still fairly new to American consumers and so I don’t blame them for being skittish about discussing their poo health the way, say, Gillian McKeith does on primetime television in the UK on her hit show You Are What You Eat. There’s Gillian at dinnertime, analyzing obese people’s poos on her special German loo and making them get colonics on national television! If the popularity of products boasting high fiber and probiotics content is any indication, it’s really just a matter of time before Americans get up to speed and become just as poo-literate as many other parts of the world.
And seriously, why is Yakult, the Japanese probiotics brand known for their mini aluminum-sealed daily yogurt drinks, not widely available here? It’s available pretty much everywhere else in the world, but for some reason it’s hard to locate in the US outside of Asian grocery stores. Yakult’s line-up of probiotics products would do incredibly well in this market because it tastes delicious, comes in packs that make it easy to consume daily, and the research behind it goes decades further back than anything launched in 2005 could possibly claim. I mean, check out this Yakult commercial with Ken Watanabe – it looks more like an ad for medication than one for drinkable yogurt.
To keep up the momentum in the next decade, major yogurt brands are gonna have to do more than just come up with nasty new flavors like Red Velvet Cake to add to their already over-crowded lineup. They’ll have to keep on talking about regularity, for a start, and innovate by taking cues from niche premium brands like Siggi’s Icelandic skyr and Liberté’s Six Grains yogurt, which are way more on the right track with their distinctive offerings. More on Siggi’s some other time…