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Yogurt: It’s not just for breakfast anymore

As an indulgent treat, a healthy snack or a protein boost, Canadians are sweet on this dairy product
According to Statista, revenue in Canada’s yogurt market should hit $3.2 billion this year.

Traditionally seen as a breakfast staple, yogurt has become an all-day affair, with high-protein yogurts standing in for other ingredients and indulgent yogurts serving as dessert replacements.

All these things are helping boost sales in the category: According to Statista, revenue in Canada’s yogurt market should hit $3.2 billion this year and the market is expected to grow annually by 4.5% to 2028.

“We’re starting to see Canadian’s consume more yogurt later in the day,” confirms Nichola Forsyth, director marketing, Lactalis Canada. Yogurt is being used as an ingredient for lunch or dinner, as a healthy and tasty dessert, or as an evening snack, she says.

Bellevue, Wash.-based research firm The Hartman Group is following the yogurt snacking trend stateside. The Group has found 54% of U.S. consumers have eaten yogurt as a snack in the past three months, up from 45% in 2020. “Yogurt is a permissible, indulgent snack that is often selected for its convenience and satiating properties,” explains Shelley Balanko, the firm’s senior vice-president. It “can be very flexible for the consumer because it covers so many different varieties and formats.”

Simple swaps

High-protein, plain yogurts are “great” substitutes that can replace cream cheese, sour cream and mayonnaise. That versatility has buoyed the growth of large tub formats, despite the growing number of one- and two-person households, Forsyth says.

Indulgent yogurts are growing, despite being typically higher in fat and sugar content, because they are “a permissible treat” and a healthier alternative to desserts such as cake, Forsyth adds. “Consumers feel better about having a little bit of a sweet treat,” she says.

READ: Consumers are turning to grocery retailers as key allies in healthy living

Because of its calcium and vitamin content, yogurt is considered a healthy snacking alternative, says Éric Maffert, senior director, marketing, yogurt category at Danone Canada. In addition, consumers are increasingly seeking yogurts that offer health benefits such as probiotics for gut health as well as options that are high-protein and lower sugar content, Maffert says. That’s why sugar content in Danone yogurts has been reduced by an average of 30% since 2018, without consumers “really realizing it,” he says.

Also, in 2022, Danone launched a Greek yogurt called Two Good that offers eight grams of protein and only two grams of sugar in each 95-gram serving. It’s available in a range of flavours including lemon, coconut, plain, vanilla and strawberry.

Protein power

High-protein yogurt, which includes Greek and skyr varieties, is the largest segment within the yogurt category in Canada and the fastest growing in terms of dollars, percentage and tonnage, according to Forsyth. 

Given the inflation of recent years, high-protein yogurt is a more affordable option than meat for Canadians seeking an easy way to get protein into their diet, adds Forsyth. They’re popular with consumers seeking a feeling of satiety or looking to build muscle mass.

Plant-based yogurts can also contain a healthy dose of protein, typically derived from almonds, cashews, flaxseed, soy and peas. Danone Canada’s new Silk protein plant-based Greek-style yogurt, for example, contains 12 grams of Canadian pea protein per 175-gram serving. It’s available in key lime and vanilla flavours.

READ: Innovation continues to power the plant-based food movement

Jennifer Beauchamp, director of marketing at Quebec-based Maison Riviera, says taste has been the biggest barrier to plant-based yogurt. However, in February, Maison Riviera introduced fruit at the bottom plant-based yogurts in strawberry and pineapple passion flavours. 

“In dairy, the fruit at the bottom experience has been synonymous with indulgence and more pleasure in taste,” she says. “This was a nice way to bring an experience that a lot of consumers are used to in dairy with the fruit at the bottom, which is very popular in Greek-style and more indulgent yogurts, to the plant-based category.”

Local influences

Merissa Myles, co-founder of Tree Island Yogurt – a small-batch dairy processor in Courtenay, B.C. that specializes in artisan yogurts – says consumers are increasingly looking to connect with where their yogurt comes from. Tree Island yogurts use grass-fed milk sourced from local farmers, allowing the company to sport Dairy Farmers of Canada’s “100% Canadian milk” logo on its packaging, something many competitors do not.

“There’s a portion of the market that does not want their yogurt from a big industrial dairy,” explains Myles. “They want to know that there’s farmers behind the product.”

This article first appeared in Canadian Grocer’s March/April 2024 issue.

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