Greek yogurt emerged a few years ago as the protein-packed, healthy alternative to the normal store-bought kind. But could French-style yogurt become the new darling of the dairy aisle?
Experts think so, but aren't sold on French's ability to dethrone Greek. However, they say Yoplait, with its new Oui brand of French-style yogurt, could be setting a trend for higher-end yogurts.
French-style yogurt differs from regular yogurt because it's made in small batches, in glass jars with a few ingredients. The process mimics how yogurt was made in French farmhouses a century ago, explained David Clark, president of U.S. yogurt for Yoplait owner General Mills.
"It's essentially the same ingredients that yogurt is made from," said registered dietitian nutritionist Wesley Delbridge. "It's just made in a different way."
French-style means placing whole milk and yogurt cultures in a small glass pot and letting it culture together in the glass. Yoplait said this takes about eight hours. Typically, yogurt is made in large batches and then put in small containers.
The result is a thicker, firmer yogurt that isn't as tart, Delbridge explained. Some have described it as similar to butter or heavy cream with a subtle sweetness.
"It's not necessarily better for you than Greek yogurt or better for you than just plain yogurt," said Delbridge, a spokesman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. "It's just about the user experience and kind of what your preferences are on taste and cost."
Yoplait's Oui, which comes in plain and fruit-on-the-bottom varieties, has more fat and calories and less protein than its Greek counterparts.
A 5-ounce cup of black cherry Oui yogurt has 160 calories, 7 grams of fat and 5 grams of protein. A 5.3-ounce cup of Chobani's black cherry Greek yogurt has 120 calories, no fat and 12 grams of protein. Both have about the same amount of sugar. Oui has 15 grams, Chobani has 16 grams.
Will French replace Greek?
Global food trendologist Christine Couvelier said Yoplait's play at authenticity taps into the food market's move toward authenticity.
"Consumers want to know more about the story and they want to know more the authenticity of products," she explained. "The romance of it and the story behind it is so important."
The chances French-style yogurt can replicate the success of Greek yogurt will come down to advertising, said Phil Lempert, an expert on grocery store trends.
The run on Greek has impacted General Mills. Late last year, analysts downgraded the company's stock outlook. Now recent earnings show its North American yogurt sales dipped 18% last year as consumers drifted toward Greek and other natural foods.
Lempert said French could steal a little bit of the market from Greek, but it would attract a different type of customer, those who want more indulgence and do not care how many containers they can get for $10.
"It's not about price anymore," Lempert said. "What it's about is this whole formula of value."
Oui, which will be in stores in July, is more expensive than its counterparts at $1.49 for a 5-ounce jar. A 5.3-ounce container of Chobani Fruit on the Bottom costs $1.25.
If it's a hit, Lempert said, prepare to see other kinds of yogurts hitting the shelves.
"It changes the entire dairy case and it sort of starts making the dairy case more international," he said. "This could be game-changing for all the yogurt companies."
Nathan Bomey contributed to this article.
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