The Tale of Yogurt: Tracing the Source of Growth

The story of yogurt is an amazing one from many perspectives. This category has shown remarkable growth over the past decade – in fact, NPD Vice President and Chief Industry Analyst Harry Balzer declared it the “food of the decade.” Per capita yogurt consumption has more than doubled over the decade, and now nearly one in three individuals eats yogurt regularly. If you have observed the yogurt section in the grocery store, it’s likely you’ve noticed there has been a great deal of innovation, and it continues to breathe new life into the category.

New products have helped to retain consumers and lure new ones into the category. The range of new products over the years has included varieties specifically targeted to babies and older kids. We’ve seen yogurt in a tube, in a bottle, and in the ever-popular cups, with toppings and without; big cups, small cups, and even squeezable cups. Yogurts as a “digestive aid” spurred new interest, as has the more recent influx of Greek-style yogurts. But there is another side of this story that can’t be told based on the activity seen in the store. It’s the story of yogurt’s growth from a consumer habits perspective.

Our Source of Growth Analysis (always a happier story than a Source of Decline Analysis) identified key drivers from a consumer usage viewpoint. Looking at yogurt consumption in the home, where three-fourths of all yogurt consumption takes place, we have observed that yogurt has grown at all occasions – breakfast, lunch, dinner, and between meals. This relates to a key element of yogurt’s secret to success: its versatility. Consumers use yogurt as a meal, a meal replacement, a snack, and even as a dessert. The Source of Growth Analysis shows that over the last five years, the in-home breakfast occasion has been the primary driver behind incremental eating occasions: 39 percent of incremental yogurt eating occasions over the last five years have been from breakfast, followed by 20 percent from between meal snack occasions, and 19 percent from lunch.

Similarly, looking at the age of the eater, our analysis shows over half of yogurt’s growth at breakfast can be attributed to consumers in the 18-to-34 and 45-to-64 age groups. Taking a closer look at the younger of those two groups, we see several dynamics that work together to result in incremental eating occasions. Over the past five years, 18- to 34-year-olds have been eating breakfast in the home more often. This increase is consistent with the general population trend, which shows a decline in skipping the breakfast meal. Additionally, the number of 18- to 34- year-olds in the U.S. population is up approximately 6 percent since 2007. And finally, yogurt’s share of breakfast occasions among these young adults has increased.

The combination of more people in the 18-to-34 age segment, more breakfast meals being consumed by this age group, and yogurt’s higher share of these occasions has resulted in approximately 200 million incremental yogurt occasions since 2007.

As is typically true in cases of remarkable success, there are many intersecting elements to the story. This is also true in the case of yogurt. Innovation in the yogurt category is just one component. 

The NPD Group is always looking ahead, and we are here to share our insights and knowledge as you plan for your future. For more information about the topics discussed here, please contact Darren Seifer at or speak with your NPD representative.

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