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A Young Category's Growth
Still in its infancy in many areas, frozen yogurt is not loved by all. Shoppers at a Kowalski’s supermarket in St. Paul, Minn., one of eight stores in the Kowalski’s Markets chain, are giving the products the cold shoulder. Kowalski’s introduced two brands in the past year.
“It’s not like ice cream,” said Rodney Gagner, the store’s dairy frozen manager. “The demand is not here.”
Like the Greek language, the new frozen yogurt is unfamiliar to many shoppers. Building awareness is always a challenge, just as it is with other frozen products, said Daniel Donovan, spokesman for Giant Eagle, a Pittsburgh-based chain of supermarkets.
Giant Eagle carries the Ben & Jerry’s, Stonyfield, Yasso and Ruggle’s brands of frozen Greek yogurt. To coax shoppers into trying it, the stores have offered coupons and conducted in-store sampling activities. The biggest fans of the treat are the same people who buy fresh Greek yogurt, though the stores also see other consumers giving it a try, Donovan said.
“Frozen Greek yogurt continues to steadily increase in popularity with Giant Eagle customers, with the category representing a low double-digit percentage of overall sales within our pint and super premium business,” Donovan told SN. “The popularity of Giant Eagle’s frozen Greek yogurt mirrors that of other specialty frozen treats such as reduced-calorie ice creams, though it is not currently growing as quickly as categories such as gelato.”
To introduce people to the product, the pioneering founders of Yasso Frozen Greek Yogurt took their yogurt bars to music festivals, sporting events and other functions where they believed they would find a captive audience for a high-protein snack. Yasso was the first brand of frozen Greek yogurt to hit the U.S. market in 2011. Now the brand is expanding from three to six flavors and can be found in 15,000 supermarkets.
“We spend a lot of time talking to our consumers to find out what they’re looking for,” said Drew Harrington, who founded the company with his friend, Amanda Klane. “We relied on Facebook fans and did a lot of sampling.”
Harrington said he’s not bothered by all the new competition from big-name brands.
“The competition makes every company improve on their own products,” he said. “We’ll continue to look at our own brand and make it the best one out there.”
One of the new arrivals, the Healthy Choice line of frozen Greek yogurt, offers consumers three fruit flavors — strawberry, raspberry and blueberry — as well as vanilla bean. Weighing in at just 100 calories per serving, the yogurts, packaged in individual cups, are offered in the frozen section next to Healthy Choice’s single-serve meals.
On Healthy Choice’s website, it’s clear from the comments that the yogurts appeal to consumers who are watching their weight and seeking more nutritious treats.
Consumers enjoy the yogurt for dessert as well as daytime and evening snacking, said Dana Southard, brand manager for Healthy Choice, a division of ConAgra Foods.
“As consumers try to snack healthier as well as eat more nutritious desserts, they want products that don’t sacrifice taste,” Southard said. “Healthy Choice Greek Frozen Yogurt was introduced to meet these consumer needs.
“We’re very excited about consumer response so far for our Greek frozen yogurt,” Southard said.
Best known for premium ice cream, Ben & Jerry’s jumped into the Greek frozen yogurt market in 2012. Unlike other manufacturers, the South Burlington, Vt.-based company didn’t set out to make a super low-calorie product. Ben & Jerry’s frozen Greek yogurt ranges from 180 calories to just over 210 calories for a half-cup portion, said Jody Eley, brand manager for Ben & Jerry’s.
“Our products are not meant for consumers on diets,” Eley said. “Our frozen Greek yogurt is lighter compared to our ice cream.” The yogurts also contain less fat and more protein than ice cream, she said.
Initial sales have been strong, Eley said.
“It’s doing quite well,” she said. “It’s not turning as quickly as our ice cream products, which we never expected it to. It’s brought in incremental buyers, which was our goal.”
Ben & Jerry’s yogurts are primarily sold in pint cartons, with two flavors, banana peanut butter and raspberry fudge chunk, sold in single-size, 3.6-ounce cups. The company will roll out new flavors this year.