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Breakfast shift: Yogurt sales sour

(AP) — What’s eating yogurt?

Despite shelves full of new varieties — from Icelandic to Australian to coconut-based — U.S. yogurt sales are in a multiyear slump. Yogurt companies are confident that more new products can boost sales. But some analysts are skeptical, saying larger trends — like growing sales of protein bars — will be hard to turn around.

“Consumers are just not eating as much yogurt as they once did,” said Caleb Bryant, associate director of food and drink reports for Mintel, a market research company.

U.S. sales of yogurt and yogurt drinks peaked at nearly $9 billion in 2015. In 2019, they’re expected to hit $8.2 billion, down 3.6% from 2018, Mintel says. They’re expected to fall another 10% to $7.4 billion by 2024.

Chobani — the second-biggest yogurt maker by U.S. market share — thinks innovation can halt that slide. On Monday, the company introduced its first oat-based yogurts, capitalizing on booming sales of oat milk and consumer interest in plant-based eating. The move follows market leader Danone’s introduction last July of oat-based yogurts under its So Delicious brand.

“If we stay close to the consumer and continue to give them the food they want from a trend perspective and a health perspective, yogurt continues to grow,” Chobani President Peter McGuinness said.

Health and animal welfare concerns are driving some Americans away from dairy altogether. Last week, the nation’s largest milk processor, Dean Foods, filed for bankruptcy protection, citing a decades-long decline in U.S. milk consumption.

In a Mintel survey released this month, 30% of people who bought yogurt in the past three months said they were also buying high-protein foods or probiotic foods instead of yogurt.

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