July 25, 2012 in Business

Yogurt bars capitalize on popularity rise

Associated Press
Associated Press photo

A bowl of “Fig + Walnut” made with Turkish figs, walnuts and honey is displayed at the Chobani yogurt bar in New York on Monday.
(Full-size photo)

NEW YORK – Yogurt companies are looking to cultivate Americans’ taste for dairy.

The country’s top Greek yogurt maker, Chobani, is opening up its first “yogurt bar” in New York City today as it looks to strengthen its position in a rapidly growing market. Dannon, a longtime industry giant, also opened up a shop in New York City earlier this month called The Yogurt Culture Company that serves both fresh Greek and traditional varieties.

The two companies say there are no plans yet for additional locations. But such flagship stores can add luster to a brand and help build loyal fan bases, which will be critical at a time when tastes are shifting and competition is intensifying.

U.S. sales of Greek yogurt have more than doubled in the past five years to $1.6 billion, according to Euromonitor International. Unlike the thinner, more sugary yogurts that dominated U.S. supermarket shelves for years, Greek yogurt has a thicker consistency because of the way it’s strained. For many, a big part of the attraction is that it’s also low in fat and high in protein. Given its versatility in sweet and savory dishes, companies also see plenty of room for growth.

“We want to open up the horizon for the way people look at yogurt in the U.S.,” said Hamdi Ulukaya, Chobani’s founder and CEO. “When it comes to yogurt, America is underdeveloped.”

At the Chobani store in Manhattan’s trendy Soho neighborhood, there are no make-it-yourself options, as with many frozen yogurt shops where customers can pile on their own toppings. The menu will instead offer a set list of creations developed by Ulukaya, such as one that has chopped figs and walnuts with honey drizzled on top. Savory options – like yogurt with cucumbers or olive oil – are also available.

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