Chobani hopes nut butters will give yogurt a boost

Chobani is trying to attract more customers with a trendy new product: Greek yogurt with nut butters.

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Danielle Wiener-Bronner
, CNN Business
CNN — Chobani is trying to attract more customers with a trendy new product: Greek yogurt with nut butters.

The new line, which hits grocery store shelves this week, includes plain Greek yogurt with almond butter, vanilla Greek yogurt with cashew butter, chocolate Greek yogurt with hazelnut butter and others. Eventually, Chobani plans to add a peanut butter product.

For Chobani, the new line is a way to seize on the nut butter and healthy fat trends, and see if a combination that has performed well in its cafe will get more retail customers to give yogurt a try.

Nut butters are a $3.9 billion market in the United States, according to the research firm Mintel. The category has potential to keep growing, Mintel noted, especially as a snack.

For Chobani, nut butters are an appealing trend because they work well with its existing product.

"We thought it was a really beautiful marriage between the nutrient-density of Greek yogurt and the deliciousness of nut butters," said Peter McGuinness, Chobani's chief commercial and marketing officer. And though years ago health-conscious consumers would have avoided fat, now "healthy fats are back," he said.

Chobani developed viscous nut butters for the new product, so that they're as easy to mix as the fruit at the bottom of Chobani's other yogurts.

The new yogurts taste much like Chobani's other fruit and blended products, but with a slightly nuttier flavor and texture. They're also more caloric than most of Chobani's core fruit flavored yogurts, with between 160 and 180 calories per 5.3 ounce cup. They are also slightly more expensive, priced at about $1.69 per cup compared to $1.25 for the company's core products. That puts the nut butter line at a premium, more expensive than Chobani's "less sugar" platform, about $1.49 per cup, but cheaper than its non-dairy flavors, which sell for about $1.99.

Nut butter yogurts make sense for Chobani because its customers have already shown that they are fans of the combination.

The company serves a yogurt and peanut butter bowl in its flagship New York City cafe, and nut butter items have been among the top sellers since the restaurant — which McGuinness described as an "inspiration, incubation center" — opened in 2012.

Chobani has also noticed that its most engaged customers post about yogurt nut butter smoothies and bowls, said McGuinness. "We're just connecting a few dots," he said. "If they're doing it themselves, why not do it for them?"

The new platform could be another way for Chobani to entice more people Americans to eat yogurt. Yogurt is "under-penetrated in the US," said McGuinness. Chobani has already tried to increase consumption with a line of kids yogurts called Gimmies and non-dairy options.

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