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Flavoured Fermentation


The packaged yoghurt category in India is yet to taste the power of pathbreaking innovation, but with consumers willing to give flavoured and probiotic yoghurt varieties a try, there is enough scope for growth in the category. Companies now have to shift focus to flavour invention and category Expansion.

As most Indians who have been raised on home-made yoghurt/curd or plain dahi would know, the scientific formation behind the creation is the same, and so are the benefits. Yoghurt is a dairy product produced by bacterial fermentation of milk. The texture of the yoghurt and its tang in taste comes from the lactic acid acting on milk protein, which is produced by this fermentation. Thanks to its nutrient-rich and digestion-aiding properties, yoghurt is today promoted throughout the world as a healthy, low-fat food supplement, which can be customised in several convenient ways to accommodate 
“Yoghurt is a good substitute for those who do not like – or cannot digest – milk and can get the vitamins and calcium, which will be missed by not consuming milk. It is also a healthy alternative for people suffering from lactose intolerance produced by lactate deficiency because yogurt bacteria have the necessary enzymes to cleave lactose into lactic acid, so lactose reaches the intestines almost completely digested, which facilitates absorption,” explains Priti R. Mohile, MD, Mediamedic Communications Pvt Ltd.
The New Curd
With the yoghurt concept not being new to Indian consumers, manufacturers had it easy with a ready-made market for packaged yoghurt products in the Indian market. With most leading dairy companies already providing plain yoghurt and even traditional yoghurt drinks such as lassi at the initial stages, some brands ventured a bit further and began providing ready-to-eat Raitas.
“In India, yoghurt is traditionally prepared at home, hence the consumer psyche does not consider it (packaged yoghurt) prudent or attractive enough to purchase. It is only when the new generation begins to resort to more and more of ready-to-eat items that this trend will pick up,” shares Mohile. Although the industry has seen and made some effort in educating and promoting yoghurt based on its health benefits alone, most households still make it at home and only purchase packaged, branded yoghurt as a lastminute resort. And even as more and more international players venture into this category and expand it with new varieties and flavours, many believe that the pace of innovation is less than optimum.
Mohile believes that brands will have to undertake major efforts toward educating and boosting the awareness levels of younger target groups. “Only then will this category see innovations and growth in the years to come,” she says. “Benefits of yoghurt include reduction of cholesterol, protection against certain cancers, and even boosting the immune system. The research is still not complete on these benefits; however, these factors will likely be important in the continued market growth of packaged yoghurt,” notes Man Mohan Malik, CMD, Himalya International.
Yoghurt  Aplenty
Once populated by just a few regional labels, the yoghurt category today has over half-a-dozen national brands that offer a variety of variants. Here’s a look at some of the leading brands in the market: Nestlé India Ltd, a leading nutrition, health and wellness company, has a diverse yoghurt portfolio. It includes Fresh ‘n’ Natural Dahi (plain yoghurt), which is available in 200 gm and 400 gm packs, priced at Rs 15 and 20, respectively; Nestlé Fresh ‘n’ Natural Slim Dahi (low fat) comes in 200 gm and 400 gm packs priced at Rs 15 and 30, respectively. The company’s Nesvita Dahi, a probiotic yoghurt, comes in 200 gm and 400 gm packs priced at Rs 15 and 28, respectively.
Nestlé’s raita variant – Nestlé Jeera Raita – comes in 185 gm pack (for Rs 15) and 380 gm pack (for Rs 25). And the popular flavoured yoghurt category offered by Nestlé has Nestlé Milkmaid Fruit Yoghurt, which comes in two flavours – mango and strawberry – priced at Rs 19 for a 100 gm pack.
Another leading player in the yoghurt category is Gowardhan Dairy, founded by Parag Milk and Milk Products Pvt Ltd in 1992. The yoghurt varieties offered by Gowardhan Dairy include Gowardhan Fresh ‘n’ Thick Dahi, available in 80 gm pack (Rs 7), 200 gm pack (Rs 15) and 400gm pack (Rs 27). Another variant, Gowardhan Trim Dahi, is available in 200 gm and 400 gm packs for Rs 16 and Rs 28, respectively.
Venturing into the flavoured yoghurt category, Gowardhan launched the ‘Go’ brand of yoghurt last year. Available in different flavours – strawberry, mango, banana, lychee, mixed berry and pineapple – the Go brand is packed in a readyto- eat cup, and is priced at Rs 18 for a 125 gm pack.
Himalya International, a leading agri-export-oriented company, also has a yoghurt portfolio, which includes probiotic plain yoghurt (available in 200 gm and 400 gm packs, priced at Rs 15 and 30, respectively) and fruit flavoured yoghurt under the brand name Himalya Fresh Real Fruit Yoghurt. Available in four different flavours – mixed fruit, strawberry-banana, strawberry and pineapple – the flavoured yoghurt is available in a 150-gm pack for Rs 25.
Amul, the leading dairy product brand from Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation Ltd (GCMMF), offers Amul Masti Dahi made from pasteurised toned milk in 200 gm and 400 gm packs. Amul ProLife Dahi is available in 200 gm and 400 gm packs. The company’s Yogi Yoghurt, a fruit flavoured yoghurt, comes in two flavours – mango and strawberry.
Mother Dairy, one of the leading brands in dairy products, offers plain and probiotic yoghurts. Mother Dairy Dahi is a low-fat, rich-incalcium plain yoghurt. It is available in 100 gm, 200 gm and 400 gm packs. In the probiotic range, Mother Dairy offers b-Activ Probiotic Dahi, available in Delhi in 90 gm, 200 gm and 400 gm tubs, and b- Activ Plus Fibre Rich Curd, available in Mumbai in 200 gm and 400 gm packs. The company also offers Mishti Doi, the quintessential Bengal yoghurt, in a 90 gm cup. Britannia Industries Ltd’s offerings include Britannia Daily Fresh Dahi and Britannia Fresh Low Fat Dahi. Both varieties are available in 200 gm and 400 gm packs.
One of the most recent entrants in the category, Danone, whose products are imported and distributed in India by Narang Group, has also come up with a range of fortified plain and flavoured yoghurt. Its fortified plain yoghurt has a shelf life of 15 days and is available in 150 gm and 400 gm packs, priced at Rs 14 and Rs 27, respectively. The company’s flavoured yoghurt, available in strawberry, mango and vanilla variants, is available in a 100 gm pack for Rs 10.
There is, therefore, no dearth of flavours and varieties in yoghurt that companies have in their portfolios. But how do manufacturers home in on variant innovation? “It is essentially done through market research to understand the taste and preference of the consumer,” says Rahul Akkara, vice-president (marketing), Gowardhan Dairy. 
While in Mohile’s opinion, “It’s indeed the popularity of these flavours. Rare and exotic is preferred by the Indian palate. Moreover, citrus flavours don’t go well with milk products.”
Akkara says that the consumption rate of packaged flavoured yoghurt is growing tremendously in the Indianmarket.“In terms of value, the flavoured yoghurt category in India is worth Rs 15-20 crore and is growing at almost 20 percent annually.” He also reveals that five percent of Gowardhan’s total dairy product revenues come from the flavoured yoghurt Category.  
Innovation is Key
Though companies have a lot to offer in terms of flavours and SKUs, to get the category to experience high-level growth, yoghurt manufacturers will have maintain constant innovation. “Yoghurt manufacturers must focus on development of new flavours and longer-lasting products. The introduction of new flavours will be driven by consumer desires and new developments by the research and development teams,” says Malik.
To attract the cost-conscious Indian consumer, manufacturers, especially those of flavoured yoghurts, should invest in improving the shelf life of products. Constantly educating consumers on the technologies being used, such as Tetra Pak cartons, to sustain vitality and flavours, will be another crucial aspect in the growth of the category.
Stating that the development in this category is in progress, Malik says, “Suppliers of bacterial culture (the bacterial growth on or in an artificial medium) are conducting research that hints at the development of uniquely flavoured yoghurts. By varying the types of organisms in the cultures, yoghurt is produced much faster and lasts longer.” 
The health-conscious Indian consumer is willing to come out of the mindset of consuming homemade dahi and is ready to give the flavoured and probiotic yoghurt varieties a shot. But to make Indian consumers dedicated buyers of packaged yoghurts, companies will have to do a lot more.