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Chobani launches new plant-based recipe for US market but advocates EU non-dairy labeling rules

Zoom in font  Zoom out font Published: 2019-01-15  Views: 15
Core Tip: US yogurt maker Chobani LLC has launched the company's first-ever plant-based non-dairy recipe products which only contain natural ingredients, are low in sugar and are packed with probiotics.
US yogurt maker Chobani LLC has launched the company's first-ever plant-based non-dairy recipe products which only contain natural ingredients, are low in sugar and are packed with probiotics. By entering the non-dairy space, the company, which spearheaded the US mainstreaming of Greek yogurt, is seeking to capitalize on consumers’ growing interest in plant-based alternatives to products traditionally derived from animal proteins.

Even though this new Chobani recipe hits shelves in the US, the company is mindful of European legislation that outlaws dairy alternatives from using terms like “yogurt.”  It claims to be ahead of the game with its new cultured organic coconut products.

Chobani is rolling out nine new Non-Dairy Chobani cultured organic coconut products that will be available across US grocery and retail stores. But they will not be referred to as “yogurt.” The company wants to stay ahead of potential legislation that may eventually require companies to stop referring to nut- and plant-based drinks as "milks” and non-dairy alternatives as “yogurt.”

To avoid such labeling pitfalls and to be as transparent as possible, Chobani is sticking to “Coconut-based Non-Dairy Chobani,” advocating a better alignment of food standards of identity in the US. Chobani believes in the clear distinction between milk-based foods, such as yogurts and other options like its all-new non-dairy line.

In the summer of 2017, a judgment from the Court of Justice of the European Union ruled that purely plant-based products cannot, in principle, be marketed with designations such as “milk,” “cream,” “butter,” “cheese” or “yogurt,” which are reserved by EU law for animal products. The same is true if those designations are accompanied by clarifying or descriptive terms indicating the plant origin of the product concerned.

Seeing as this could eventually be replicated in the US and elsewhere, as a leading US yogurt manufacturer, Chobani is conscious of this, which is evidenced with the new recipes.

Chobani spokesperson explains some of the driving factors behind the new launch of this new recipe.

“Plant-based milk is more than 13 percent of fluid milk, whereby plant-based yogurt is only 2 percent of the yogurt market, but it’s growing in the double-digits. This is the case even with a lot of options that just don’t taste good or are high in sugar,” the spokesperson says. “We want to bring new people into the category because we have a product with great taste and texture, and less sugar.”

Chobani’s non-dairy line has a coconut base. However, there are opportunities for this to expand into other plants, including soy and almonds.

Speaking about further opportunities in the plant-based space, the Chobani spokesperson adds: “Everything is on the table. There are a lot of different people out there that prefer different plant-based products. We are open to exploring that whole world.”

The growth in non-dairy is not just about the rising number of vegans and lactose intolerant consumers. The plant-based movement is also being driven by people looking for healthier alternatives to traditional dairy. 

The dairy alternatives market has been a particular beneficiary of the growing plant-based trend. Innova Market Insights reports that plant-based product claims increased by 62 percent globally (CAGR, 2013-2017). The market researcher’s data also shows that over the past five years, the number of new plant-based dairy alternative drinks launches reported in Europe has grown continuously, with a CAGR (2013-2017) of 19 percent.

Non-Dairy Chobani is made using only natural, non-GMO ingredients and no artificial flavors, sweeteners or preservatives to adhere to the company’s craft and food philosophy.

Chobani say this is not a replacement to dairy, but a “game-changer for plant-based products.”

Dairy versus plant-based alternatives

The dairy industry is under continued scrutiny over its sustainability, partially due to the environmental impacts of producing milk.

Alexander Anton, about how plant-based alternatives could be seen as a potential threat to the dairy industry, as well as the sustainability of dairy itself.

“The question is: what is the nutritional value of milk? And if you take this sustainable diet approach into account, then all of a sudden the alternatives to milk and dairy, in terms of protein supply for people, then it comes out quite well,” he says.

Anton admits that the rising popularity of plant-based alternatives does pose somewhat of a challenge for the industry, especially in terms of marketing. “It is a challenge for the dairy industry, especially on the marketing side, to promote our products but we see that there is not a major impact on the market and there is not the situation in other countries like the US, where it has really taken market share from the dairy side,” he says.

“We feel the superiority of milk and dairy, especially when it comes to protein. This has been recognized in EU regulation which clearly says that from a scientific basis, from a digestibility and availability of protein for the human body, dairy is number one. It’s simply the best,” he notes.

Anton is extremely pleased that the EU legislation protects the consumer and dairy industry from plant-based alternatives using dairy references in their marketing.

“We have all the good arguments on our side and we are very happy, at a European level, that we have the protection of dairy terms. An alternative product can’t claim or can’t be marketed with a dairy name like ‘cheese’ or ‘yogurt’ or something similar; so the consumer is protected. When there is a dairy term, it is a dairy product with the value of milk in it,” he concludes.
 
 
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