How Greek Yogurt Conquered the U.S.

Greek yogurt brands

Four years ago, Greek yogurt made up only two percent of total sales of the product in the United States, much of it in specialty Greek stores, overlooked by all by health-and-gourmet food seekers.

Today, Greek yogurts – real and those not-so-genuine – comprise 33 percent of sales and has pushed American consumption of the foodstuff from two pounds a year in 1975 to 14 pounds now.

How did it happen so fast? Cornell University has produced a report on Greek yogurt’s phenomenal rise, one of two research papers analyzing the impact – and potential – of New York’s Greek yogurt production. It shows once Americans got a taste of the good stuff they couldn’t get enough and Greek yogurt effectively taken over the dairy aisle, Dairy Herd Network reported.

New York was named the “yogurt capital of the nation” earlier this year, churning out nearly 700 million pounds of yogurt – both traditional and Greek – in 2012.

The growth and demand for Greek yogurt in the next five to 10 years is expected to remain strong. Packaged Facts forecast that overall yogurt sales revenue will grow by more than 27 percent by 2017, and Greek yogurt will be a major catalyst.

There is a caveat though: as Chobani, which rose from nowhere to become number one in the sector found, Americans taste for Greek yogurt is peaking and there’s unlikely to be much more saturation, especially with cut-throat competition in the field now.

“The most rapid growth will occur in those regions where per capita yogurt consumption is lowest (so growth will likely slow in the Northeast and New England),” The report said.

The report continued: “Greek yogurt has cannibalized — and will continue to cannibalize – consumption of other dairy products, including other styles of yogurt and other dairy products, so any Greek yogurt growth will not be without some offsetting declines in other dairy product categories.

“There is ample anecdotal evidence that Greek yogurt has cannibalized other yogurts, sour cream and cream cheese (in dips and sauces, especially in plain, full fat 2 pound packages), fluid milk (as Greek yogurt displaces breakfast cereal), ice cream (as Greek yogurt makes inroads as a nighttime snack), and other dairy-based and non-dairy based desserts.”

Dairy Herd said that many companies fear that some Greek yogurt processors are seeing current or future over-capacity in the U.S. market, which could lead to an influx of closed processing plants and displace milk supply and potential reduced prices and margins.

But regardless of the future growth of Greek yogurt, the researchers agreed that New York will likely remain the largest Greek yogurt manufacturing state in the country, thanks to its proximity to large consumption markets, high milk production, supporting businesses and new plant investments.