For Kraft and Frito-Lay, Suddenly, Greece Is the Word


Greasy food may be getting the cold shoulder from consumers, but Greek food is hot.

Hummus and Greek yogurt—once confined to niches—are going mainstream, thanks to Kraft and PepsiCo. Kraft, for instance, is rolling out its first Greek yogurt, under its Athenos brand, in California and Midwest grocery stores with a sampling effort. The food giant has significantly upped ad spending on Athenos this year, said brand manager Marshall Hyzdu. Hyzdu said the perceived health advantages of Mediterranean food is one reason, but he added that “taste preferences are evolving.”

Meanwhile, Sabra hummus started advertising on TV for the first time last year. Spots from Strawberry Frog showed adults enjoying the snack with a glass of wine. Sabra is partially owned by PepsiCo’s snack foods division, Frito-Lay, via a joint venture, and it’s also launching new products later this year, said brand manager Mina Penna.

The launches come after Fage, a New York-based marketer, pioneered the Greek yogurt category in 2007 with a print campaign from Ogilvy & Mather featuring the tagline, “Ridiculously thick yogurt.”

In tracked channels, Greek yogurt sales have more than doubled each of the past five years, per Kraft. The number of consumers eating yogurt grew by 60 percent over the past decade, and 1,500 percent for hummus-—a much smaller category—during that same time period, per the NPD Group, which tracks eating habits.

This explains why brands like Sabra are really starting to “dial up the marketing,” Penna said. So far, the outlay has been modest. The food industry spent $11 million advertising Mediterranean foods in all of last year  and $10 million through June of this year, per the Nielsen Co.

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