The cultured dairy products category encompasses foods that are concentrated sources of protein and other dairy nutrients. It includes yogurt, cottage cheese, sour cream, cream cheese, dips and a few other novel fermented dairy foods.

Innovators are differentiating through the use of limited-edition flavors and better-for-you formulations. Consumers today also want added value. This may come in the form of milk source (e.g., grass-fed, A2, regenerative organic, etc.). It also may come from international recipes and global flavors.

In yogurt, the largest cultured dairy category, no- and low-added sugars have become the norm. Many also include probiotics and prebiotics and speak to the consumers’ growing interest in immunity. Limited-batch recipes are also attractive, as they create an urgency to purchase and try before the concept is sold out.

Late last year, Karoun Dairies, San Fernando, Calif., part of the Parmalat family, rolled out Nata Crema para Desayuno (Nata Breakfast Cream), which is a naturally sweet clotted cream that is popular in Mexico and Latin America. Committed to building its Hispanic dairy products line, the company is now rolling out Jocoque Seco premium dips in chipotle, jalapeno cheddar and natural varieties.

Dairy Farmers of America, Kansas City, Kan., also entered this space with Kemps Mexican Style Sour Cream. The company starts with its traditional sour cream, which is simply cultured cream, and then through creative use of tapioca starch and tara gum, produces a product that can be poured or drizzled as a topping. It is thinner than sour cream, yet thicker than authentic crème.

One of the biggest disruptors in the cultured dairy space comes from two sisters, Hayley and Stephanie Painter, who grew up on a fourth-generation Pennsylvania family farm. The two are bringing to market whole milk organic Skyr Icelandic-style yogurt, which they describe as “for your family’s health, for the future of family farms like ours, for the planet, for women in business and more.”

In addition to the regenerative agriculture and sustainability features, the sisters touch on many formulation trends in the five-variety line of whole milk yogurt. Made from ultra-filtered milk that is gently heated and minimally processed, each 5.3-oz cup packs in up to 18 grams of protein and is lightly sweetened with just a touch of cane sugar. The product is also lactose free (through the addition of lactase) and delivers billions of probiotics, including BB12, the world’s most clinically documented Bifidobacterium probiotic strain.

Not to be forgotten, but so often overlooked, cottage cheese continues to hold its own in the cultured dairy segment. Valued as one of the original high-protein dairy foods, innovators in this space are focusing on flavor innovation, clean label and convenience in the form of single-serve cups.

Prairie Farms, Edwardsville, Ill., is one of the most recent processors to enter the cottage cheese snack cups segment. The small-batch, made with local milk cottage cheese, comes in seven varieties. The two unseasoned options are plain small curd and plain low fat. Fruity options are peach, pineapple and strawberry. For those who prefer savory profiles, the company offers cream cheese flavors such as Garden Vegetable (beets, carrots, celery, garlic, onions, parsley and tomatoes) and Zesty Fresh (dehydrated black beans, bell peppers, cilantro, cheese, garlic, jalapeño, lime, onions and tomatoes).

Category innovations

• Dannon now offers Light + Fit Zero Sugar, a new fermented dairy food that is not labeled yogurt, as the formulation does not meet the standard of identity. It’s described as “yogurt-cultured, ultra-filtered no-fat milk.”

• With sour cream-based dips and spreads an important component in the all-day snacking trend, Litehouse developed four new thick and creamy varieties – Avocado Ranch, Dilly, Homestyle Ranch, Southwest Ranch and Spinach Parmesan – to satisfy consumers’ evolving palettes.

• Stonyfield uses its packaging to promote “Save Gen F,” an initiative to strengthen the next generation of farmers.

• HP Hood jumped on the Everything Bagel bandwagon and added a seasoning blend of onion, garlic, flaxseed and poppyseed to its cottage cheese as a limited time offering.

Top cultured brands

- All data included in this cultured dairy category report was provided by IRI, a Chicago-based research firm, and is current as of June 27, 2022.