The Chobani and Fage plants are a boon to upstate New York’s ailing economy, not only for the more than 1,240 full-time jobs combined, but because of their voracious demand for milk from New York’s dairy farmers (it takes roughly four gallons of milk to make one gallon of Greek yogurt).
At least initially, Greek yogurt zoomed to popularity without a lot of attention from the major yogurt makers. Citigroup Global Markets in a report last month said its growth to $1 billion in annual sales - out of total yogurt sales of $4.1 billion - caught the major U.S. yogurt makers “flat-footed.”
The result: Chobani had 53 percent of the Greek yogurt market, followed by Fage with 17 percent, France’s Danone (its subsidiary Dannon makes Oikos) with 14 percent and General Mills (Yoplait Greek) with 5 percent, according to Citigroup.
The big players have clearly taken steps to grab some of the market back. General Mills added capacity and Dannon is in the process now, according to representatives of the two companies. General Mills this winter will introduce Yoplait Greek parfaits with granola and new flavors of Yoplait Greek yogurt in multipacks.
“I think that you’re going to see a very high level of innovation in the yogurt category generally and in Greek yogurt specifically over the next 6 to 12 months,” General Mills chief executive officer Kendall J. Powell said during a conference call with analysts last month.