Twelve years ago, Hamdi Ulukaya introduced Greek yogurt to the American market, which disrupted the very settled yogurt industry and ended with Chobani becoming the top-selling US brand. Now, he’s making the same type of yogurt he worked so hard to overthrow.
Chobani is calling its new Smooth brand, which comes in five flavors and contains a bit more protein and milk, “American-style” yogurt. It arrives in a packed dairy aisle that has become one of the most competitive corners of the supermarket in recent years.
In the last two decades, the US yogurt industry has experienced tremendous change. As Americans sought yogurts with more protein and healthier ingredients, entrenched companies such as General Mills and Dannon—the US arm of French yogurt giant Danone—lost market share, first to Chobani’s Greek yogurt and then to a handful of other upstarts. Earlier this year, Chobani as a company surpassed General Mills‘ Yoplait in market share, giving it the second most after Dannon.
But one issue may be that Greek yogurt is starting to become passé. Its once high-flying sales have slowed, declining nearly 5% in the last year, according to Bloomberg. And other styles—including Icelandic skyr and French—have entered the market.
But selling the new product is going to be an interesting challenge for Ulukaya. Greek yogurt rose into prominence in the US during a time when consumers were hungry for a product with less sugar, more protein, and assurance the ingredients would be more natural. Today, the market is flush with those options. And with the pool of yogurt consumers not growing, Chobani is going to have to find a way to out-maneuver other conventional yogurt companies not just from a health standpoint, but also in its marketing.