It’s not easy buying yogurt these days. About three years ago, “something different” meant a blueberry-flavoured one or indulging oneself with a dark chocolate frozen yogurt. Today, the options are endless—CoYo, limited edition, artisanal curds, peanut yogurt, soy and cashew variants, non-lactose Greek yogurts, and more. For the average millennial, if the daily repast includes millet bowls and fermented drinks such as kombucha, then why should the choice of yogurt be plain vanilla? “(Moreover) the rising awareness about lifestyle-related concerns such as diabetes and obesity, and the benefits of yogurt (improving metabolism and enhancing the immune system) ensures repeat purchase,” says a Technopak report, titled “Indian Yogurt Story”, which valued the Indian yogurt market at ₹1,000 crore in 2013-14.
This growing demand has spurred innovation among both small-scale dairy producers, artisanal brands and big companies such as Amul and Epigamia. The latter, which was launched in 2015 as India’s first all-natural Greek yogurt, has come up with an artisanal variant as well. It is being touted as the country’s first lactose-free curd.
The well-travelled Indian, who has had the Artist’s Edition of Baobab & Vanilla by Yeo Valley—which has a dedicated organic dairy near Cannington in Somerset—or a limited-edition Danone Oikos Yogurt with Hazelnut and Caramel Crunch, now craves for the same flavours back home. It is for this reason that froyo (frozen yogurt) brands such as Cocoberry and Red Mango have launched customizable combinations.
According to a report by Mintel, a market intelligence agency with offices in London, Chicago, Mumbai, Singapore, Tokyo and other cities, the trend in eating these days is to keep it clean. “Over the past few years, yogurt brands have focused their efforts on removing artificial additives and preservatives from products. The category has recently been tasked with reducing the sugar content of formulations. For example, the UK market is aiming to cut sugar content by 20% by 2020. Clean label is also increasingly seen as proof of health,” states the report. For instance, the Arla Bio Nur strawberry yogurt in Germany is a stripped-back variant comprising 75% organic yogurt and 25% organic fruit. Closer home, Cocoberry offers yogurt free of both sugar and preservatives.
With an onslaught of lactose-intolerance and dairy-related allergies, there is also a rise in demand for plant-based vegan variants made with cashews, peanuts, soy milk and coconut. Foodhall—a gourmet store chain—launched a coconut yogurt bar in March, where you can create your own bowl with seasonal fruit, matcha and granola toppings. “We also do two avocado beverages with coconut yogurt, or CoYo, which makes for a great breakfast meal. Next in the pipeline is our line of soy yogurt, once we crack the perfect recipe,” says Swasti Aggarwal, food strategist, Foodhall.
At Carrots, a vegan restaurant in Bengaluru, soy yogurt features on the menu as well. Neutral in taste, it is great for making buttermilk, raita and curd rice. “We also make peanut and coconut curds. You can make yogurt with any plant-based milk. It is just that the texture and the way each plant-based milk sours is different,” says chef and co-owner of Carrots Susmitha Subbaraju, who started out six years ago by using chilli crowns to ferment yogurt. She has seen a surge in popularity for plant-based variants—with more and more people attending the dairy alternatives workshops she holds.