For Brian Surratt, project manager, starches, sweeteners and texturizers, Cargill, Greek-style yogurt was “the right product at the right time, coming into the U.S. marketplace just as consumers’ attraction to protein was gaining traction in mainstream food products." Without question, he said, the product has been “a big contributor to the category’s growth."
How big? Greek-style options accounted for fully half of all 2016 retail yogurt sales, per AC Nielsen data. And, added John Lochinski, market research and consumer insights manager for dairy, Kerry, “It’s been a key driver for the yogurt category for over five years," bringing new consumers to the space, more than half of whom appreciate that “it’s better-for-you and more satisfying."
But consumers appreciate its novel texture, too. As Klockeman pointed out, for a textural twist to succeed in an already crowded yogurt marketplace, it must be “innovative enough to provide market distinction" without being so far out as to leave consumers cold. And Greek-style yogurt, with its “increased viscosity and denseness in combination with a change in how the yogurt thins in the mouth and clears from the palate," she said, bridges that gap.
But the need to fill the pipeline with the next big thing underscores a reality of yogurt production that processors new or established can’t escape: Getting yogurt texture right is a tricky game of finicky physics.
“Many of the challenges we face in yogurt are associated with the heavy processing demands that go with mass production," Surratt explained. Being the lactic gel that emerges when milk ferments, yogurt is “a very fragile system with a loose structure," he said. What’s more, as fermentative cultures continue to grow and metabolize in the yogurt environment, they drop the post-fermentation pH from roughly 4.5 or 4.6 down to 4.0 or lower at the end of shelf life. “Because the isoelectric point of milk proteins is 4.6," Surratt noted, “their interactions change as the pH shifts, producing the textural changes that we often see as ‘wheying off.’"
Learn insights for formulating Greek yogurt while using clean ingredients in INSIDER’s Textures in Dairy Digital Magazine.