Twelve months after a chastening slump that saw the top yoghurt brands haemorrhage sales, things haven’t got any easier for the category’s giants. Just one of the top eight brands - Activia - posted an increase in value. But even that 2% increase to £142m was driven by price rather than volume, which fell by 3%.

The remaining seven brands racked up combined losses of almost £30m, with market leader Müller Light the biggest victim, losing £14.3m in value (an 8% drop).

Müller aside, many of these losses would have been even higher if it weren’t for price rises. Yeo Valley is 6.7% more expensive, Fage is up 4.8% and Cadbury is up 2.9%.

Indeed 2018 was the year yoghurts finally experienced the inflation seen in other parts of the dairy category. Average prices increased 3.4%, rising to 4.4% for brands.

These price rises aren’t the only thing putting consumers off the big names. Retailers are also looking for “new ways to differentiate”, suggests Müller Yogurt & Desserts head of category Carol Hand. That means increasing shelf space not only for own label - up 12.8% in value on volumes up 12% - but also “alternative brands”. In this case, alternative means catering to trends such as free-from, health and indulgence, says Nielsen analyst Kate Goodman.

A look at the high-performing brands tells you all you need to know. Free-from giant Alpro is up 24%, indulgence guru Gü has risen 15% and health-orientated brands Arla and Danone’s Light & Free have increased 19% and 31% in value respectively. Those value gains were matched by similar strides in volume terms.

Smaller, premium brands have also benefited from the shift in consumer behaviour. The Collective registered a 12.5% increase in value to £31.3m, bringing it into the top 15 for the first time. Meanwhile, Nomadic has delivered a 29% sales boost to £16.9m by catering to on-the-go and convenience trends.

But a fightback could be on the cards from the big guns, suggests Nielsen analyst Rupert Austin, as they take a leaf out of the book of smaller players.

Leading brands are no longer relying on the same formulaic approach to NPD, says Austin. He cites the success of Danone’s Light & Free skyr, which includes 0% fat and 0% added sugar variants for the health-conscious crowd.

Brands have also continued to cater for demand for big pots, which have risen 3.2% in value according to Nielsen. Meanwhile, Hand points to this year’s launch of Müller Corner Plain - made with unsweetened, natural, high-protein Greek-style yogurt - as another example of on-trend innovation.

Hopefully that will translate to some sweet growth for the big boys.


the collective kefir

The Collective Kefir, The Collective Dairy

The Collective has been busy on the kefir front this year. First came the kefir drinks range - described as a major new direction for the brand - in April. That initial dabble was swiftly followed by the launch of this on-trend kefir yoghurt range in October with four flavours: Natural, Madagascan Vanilla, Berries ‘n’ Hibiscus and Coconut. Co-founder Amelia Harvey says the “completely guilt-free” products contain 30% less sugar than other flavoured yoghurts.