Chobani Expands With Oat-Milk Products—and Not Just Yogurt

In 2015, sales of yogurt and yogurt drinks in the United States peaked at almost $9 billion.  Apparently, then, these sales have been in decline and sales for this year are expected to reach $8.2 billion, which is down 3.6 percent from 2018.  By 2024, though, US yogurt sales are expected to drop another 10 percent, to $7.4 billion. 

That in mind, Chobani is saying that innovation might help to turn things around. Early this week, the company introduced the very first oat-milk-based yogurt in their product line. This, of course, is aimed at capitalizing on the growing sales of oat milk, as well as booming consumer interest in plant-based foods (and dairy alternatives are a big part of that). 

Chobani President Peter McGuinness explains, “If we stay close to the consumer and continue to give them the food they want from a trend perspective and a health perspective, yogurt continues to grow.”

Chobani is the second-biggest yogurt maker, according to US market share but McGuinness believes the yogurt marker is still growing.  From the numbers this makes sense, as the privately-held yogurt company says dollar sales are up 9 percent this year, so far, mostly on the popularity of their lower-sugar and coconut-based yogurt options. 

And that is only the beginning, McGuinness says.  The company is now planning to further branch out into other categories, hence the new oat-milk option.  Chobani opened a 70,000 square-foot innovation center in Twin Falls, ID several months ago. Also, the company has hired more research and development staff. 

But while these changes are new, McGuinness comments “Our ambition has always been to go outside of yogurt, and we’re really prepared for it.”  

Preparation is key, indeed, as oat milk sales have soared this year;  up 636 percent up to the week ending October 26.  But even with that growth rate, oat milk still only occupies a small fraction of the alternative/plant-based milk market.  

Again, McGuinness demonstrates Chobani’s expertise. He advises, “Cashews never took off. Soy is declining and doesn’t taste good, and almond is plateauing because it’s really not good for the environment—also a lot of water usage.  None of those really taste great and deliver a ton of nutrition.”  

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