Yogurt is Food Trend of the Decade

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Yogurt is becoming more popular healthy food. Apparently, more and more Americans are digging their spoons into cups or tubs of regular and frozen yogurt, earning it the title of food trend of the decade, according to a leading consumer and retail market research firm.

Yogurt, a food which, depending on the source, has a history that is several millennia long, has a lot going for it. Harry Balzer, vice president with the market research firm NPD Group, who bestowed the food of the decade title on yogurt, noted during a recent NPR interview that the versatile dairy product “really does define what I think America wants from its food supply.” And what might that be?

Yogurt is easy to eat, it is a good source of bone-building calcium and potassium, it provides high-quality protein, and it is a tasty vehicle for beneficial bacteria, or probiotics, which a growing number of studies show to be helpful in the prevention and treatment of conditions ranging from gastrointestinal disorders to allergies. Lactobacillus, one of the two types of bacteria in yogurt and among those responsible for converting milk into yogurt, also converts lactose into lactic acid, which allows lactose-intolerant individuals to eat yogurt with little or no discomfort.

Since yogurt was first introduced commercially into the United States in 1929 by Armenian immigrants, it has enjoyed varying popularity, initially primarily among ethnic groups. It was not until the 1960s that the general public began to take a look at yogurt as a health food.

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Groupe Danone, the world’s largest producer of dairy products, has been trying for several years to convince Americans of yogurt’s health benefits. In 2006, FlexNews, which reports food news, noted that Americans were eating a mere 7.2 pounds of yogurt per person annually while in France, the home of Danone, the average yearly consumption of yogurt was 49.1 pounds.

Signs of a growing interest in yogurt has been growing slowly. In 1980, yogurt was a $300 million market in the US, but by 2005 it had grown to $3.5 billion.

The US Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service report for 1998-2007, released in 2009, showed that more Americans are walking past the ice cream aisle and heading for yogurt. While ice cream consumption was down from 16.3 pounds per person in 1998 to 14 pounds in 2007, yogurt consumption rose from 5.9 pounds per person in 1998 to 11.5 pounds in 2007.

The Dairy Council of California conducted its own research and found that the biggest consumers of yogurt are families with children and adults in their thirties, which is likely related to the fact that yogurt is convenient and that children enjoy the many available flavors. The Council also found that yogurt consumption declines among older adults.

Will the coming decade see an increase in the consumption of yogurt among older adults? What innovative ideas will yogurt makers introduce to ensure the public keeps reaching for their products? Steps have already been taken to target the growing Hispanic community by introducing flavors like mango and guava and advertising on television. There is also the small but growing niche of Greek yogurt, which is processed somewhat differently than regular yogurt and has more protein and calcium and fewer carbohydrates than regular yogurt. With all of this and whatever else yogurt makers have up their sleeve, it seems like yogurt may hold onto the title of food trend of the decade.

SOURCES:
Dairy Council of California
FlexNews, Oct. 6, 2006
NPD Group
USDA Economic Research Service

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