The look of the dairy product aisle today is vastly different than it was at the turn of the Millennium. For one thing, the yogurt section is now bursting at the seams of the refrigerated case – it is festooned with new brands, new types, combo packs, squeezables, beverages, and of course, flavors. It is truly but wondrously dizzying.
Although we have covered this topic before, being that yogurt is the number-one probiotic food consumed by multiple millions of people across the globe, it’s worth a revisit as there is so much innovation and research, and new products.
If you are a yogurt lover, you are just going to bliss out when you examine the wide range of what’s new.
Yogurt makers are quickly responding to consumer trends and demands, notably in highlighting probiotic content and catering to vegans and those who prefer to consume more plant-based foods.
As an example of the probiotic emphasis, Chobani® has honed in on the naturally occurring beneficial bacteria and enhanced it with the December 2020 launch of Chobani® Probiotic Chobani Probiotic products include blended yogurts and yogurt-based drinks, and varieties for children in pouches and beverages. This line is distinguished by the presence of several probiotics -- LGG, Lactobacillus acidophilus, L. bifidus and L. casei. The brand also had introduced fermented plant-based drinks in its probiotic line; these come in such trendy flavors as ginger and turmeric, adding another desirable layer of health functionality.
As an example of the latter, in 2019, major brands Yoplait®, Activia® and Siggi’s® expanded their considerable offerings with new plant-based yogurts. Another market research report emphasized the other nutritional attributes plant-based yogurts have over conventional. Both flax and hemp yogurts contain naturally occurring omega-3 fatty acid (ALA) and fiber while others are fortified with extra vitamins (vitamin D) and minerals (calcium), a common practice in food manufacturing. If you like vegan options, there are many -- vegan yogurts are made from “milk” from nuts (coconut, macadamia, hazelnut, pili, almond, cashew and pistachio), seeds (soy, flax, and hemp), and grains such as oats.
The report describes, “vegan yogurt is just as rich, smooth, and creamy as conventional yogurt and does not require adaptation of taste and texture.” Vegan yogurt makers are continuing to experiment with new bases and unique flavors.
According to recent data from Mordor Intelligence, a market research firm, the yogurt category is blooming because of the increasingly health-conscious population adding it to their diets. The report noted that other major trends in the yogurt market include reduced-sugar yogurts, novel or exotic flavors in yogurts, and yogurts for the label-conscious.
A new reduced-sugar yogurt line is the result of a partnership between two stalwart natural products brands: Stonyfield Organic and Nature’s Path Foods (EnviroKidz). The initial line has two varieties, each made with organic lowfat milk and 25 to25% less sugar than other comparable yogurt/topping mix products. Try Strawberry Yogurt & Choco Chimps and/or Vanilla Yogurt & Koala Crisp, both are USDA organic and Non-GMO Project Verified.
Stonyfield Yogurt, meanwhile, also has a yogurt line for infants, YoBaby. Moms can be happy to know that babies as young as six months can begin to consume yogurt. YoBaby provides vitamin D and the probiotic strain BB-12®.
Yogurt with a purpose is Two Good Good Save™ which is made from Verified Rescued Produce to create lower-sugar yogurt products. In partnership with Full Harvest®, the goal of Two Good Good Save yogurt is to significantly reduce waste at the grower level, where up to 40% of the US food supply is wasted. The first variety of Meyer Lemon with more to come.
Tillamook County Creamery Association introduced its Creamery Collection of yogurts in Oregon Blueberry paired with Vanilla, California Peach paired with Plain, Dark Cherry paired with Plain, Vanilla Bean paired with plain, Northwest Raspberry paired with Blackberry, and Oregon Strawberry paired with Plain. The yogurts are, according to the brand, made with a proprietary blend of nine cultures and probiotics.
Nancy’s Probiotic Foods expanded its offerings last year to include a new line of single-serve organic whole-milk yogurt in four flavors: Plain, Strawberry-Vanilla, Mixed Berry and Peach. The yogurts contain over 30 billion live probiotics in every serving. Nancy’s also extended its vegan line of oatmilk yogurts by adding two new flavors, PassionFruit Banana and Apple Cinnamon. Both lines are Non-GMO Project Verified. The yogurts contain L. rhamnosus LB3 and L. acidophilus LA-5, both of which are recommended to consume during and after antibiotic therapy, respectively, according to the company.
La Vaquita, a popular Mexican dairy brand which specializes in cheeses, made an entry into the drinkable yogurt category with its fruit & yogurt smoothies in four varieties: Pina Colada, Strawberry Banana, Mango and Strawberry.
What Studies Show
Yogurts are naturally rich in Lactobacillus species and strains, which have numerous health benefits, of which mood is one and quite timely. In a mouse study, researchers were able to reverse symptoms of depression through feeding them Lactobacillus found in common yogurts. The researchers examined the composition of the gut microbiome before and after the subjects were subjected to stress, finding that the major change was the loss of Lactobacillus, followed by onset of signs of despair and depression. Once. With the loss of Lactobacillus came the onset of depression symptoms. Adding the yogurt-type Lactobacillus with the food returned the subjects to normal behavior and disposition.
The research team also found that the amount of Lactobacillus in the gut affects blood levels of kynurenine, which has been shown to generate symptoms of depression. When Lactobacillus was reduced in the gut, the levels of kynurenine went up -- and depression symptoms set in.
A new research paper suggests that women who consume yogurt can benefit breast health as the probiotics contained within the food can reduce inflammation triggered by harmful bacteria. The researchers explain, "The stem cells which divide to replenish the lining of the breast ducts are influenced by the microflora, and certain components of the microflora have been shown in other organs, such as the colon and stomach, to increase the risk of cancer development. Therefore. a similar scenario is likely to be occurring in the breast, whereby resident microflora impact on stem cell division and influence cancer risk.”
In men, meanwhile, another study showed an association between yogurt consumption and pre-cancerous bowel growth risk. In this observational study, the researchers noted that Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus, two bacteria commonly found in live yogurt, may lower the number of carcinogenic chemicals in the gut.
For both men and women, a meta-analysis has revealed that regular consumption of both fiber and yogurt may reduce risk of lung tumor growth. Study participants were divided into five groups, according to the amount of fiber and yogurt they consumed. Those with the highest yogurt and fiber consumption had a 33% reduced lung cancer risk as compared to the group who did not consume yogurt and consumed the least amount of fiber.
Now more than ever, anyone can enjoy yogurt – and its benefits. The speed and amount of varieties and brands entering the market have not abated. Compare this to the 1970s when Dannon, Yoplait and Colombo ruled the shelves – they still remain yogurt powerhouses today. Only a handful of other brands competed, and were considered to represent the cutting-edge of healthy foods, according to a 1976 New York article.
With or without toppings, made from oats, diary, or nuts, plain, Greek style, or drinkable, yogurts can be enjoyed throughout the day and help nourish your gut microbiome. “Yo!” has a fresh and nutritious new meaning!