Kraft Foods Inc. is going Greek. The company's Athenos brand is launching a line of Greek yogurt to capitalize on the growing popularity of the food.
Greek yogurt — which is slightly more tart and thicker than traditional yogurt due to the ingredients and straining process — is high in protein and low in fat. This has caught on with the growing health concerns of shoppers.
Research group IbisWorld said sales of Greek yogurt have grown sharply recently and now account for about 15 percent of the $4 billion yogurt market in the U.S.
"The Greek yogurt craze in the U.S. has turned the product into a skyrocketing industry over the past five years," said Dmitry Kopylovsky, IbisWorld industry analyst. "The creamy, high-protein and low-calorie recipe of Greek yogurt is clearly marking its territory in supermarket aisles and consumer diets. Sales trends show that Greek yogurt purchases have doubled in each of the past five years, and its popularity is showing no signs of slowing down."
Consumers often eat it for breakfast or as a snack and some use it for a substitute for sour cream and mayonnaise.
Currently, the two largest players are Chobani and Fage. Chobani accounts for an estimated 33 percent of Greek yogurt sales, according to Ibis. Fage accumulates 20.5 percent. While these companies have been the established themselves as the major producers of the past few years, General Mills and Kraft are taking aim at the Greek yogurt market with their own brands introduced in 2010.
General Mills rolled out its product in March and company leaders said it's done well with consumers, although it has not disclosed specific sales figures. Kraft is rolling out five different varieties and its products include a dual compartment — yogurt in one section and fruit or honey in another. Athenos said the product available now at Walmart and other select retailers nationwide, and will be available in additional sites in January.
Athenos, which makes hummus, pita chips and other Greek foods for Kraft, said consumers had been asking for the product for some time.