Ambrosial (安慕希) , a new Greek yogurt by Inner Mongolia Yili Industrial Group (Yili) launched in early 2014, is now available in more cities in China. The recent cities where Ambrosial have entered are Chengdu and Chongqing in the western region and Hunan in the central region. The unique thing about the Ambrosial Greek yogurt is it an ambient yogurt drink, which can be stored in room temperature for up to five months. The other unique selling point of this Greek yogurt is it contains 35% more protein than ordinary yogurt.
Sources said Yili has the capacity to make 1,000 tonnes of Ambrosial Greek yogurt a year as of May 2014. With each pack weighing 205g, that represents a production capacity of only 4.878 million 205g packs of Ambrosial Greek yogurt per year. At the moment, a 12x205g pack Ambrosial Greek retails at RMB66. That’s equivalent to a revenue of only RMB 26.83 million calculated at retail price. As a comparison, Bright Dairy’s Momchilovtsi Bulgarian yogurt sales in 2013 reached RMB 3.22 billion at wholesale prices, up 106.5% year-on-year. Another Bright Dairy’s yogurt Changyou (畅优) drinkable yogurt recorded sales of RMB 1.19 billion at wholesale prices, representing a year-on-year growth of 35.2%.
What the new Ambrosial Greek yogurt shows is China’s dairy companies are starting to embrace Greek yogurt, which is already a global phenomenon. One of the strangest trend in the yogurt market is China, together with Japan, is a key market for Bulgarian yogurt with Momchilovtsi （莫斯利安） being one of the more popular Bulgarian yogurt in China. In Japan, 60% of the yogurt is Bulgarian yogurt, according to a news report in 2009. Meiji Bulgarian spoonable yogurt is still the best selling spoonable yogurt in Japan.
Now, Greek yogurt is challenging Bulgarian yogurt in a country tipped to become a rising start in yogurt consumption. Should Chobani wait or should it start aggressively make China as its next frontier before it is too late? However, if you notice, the Ambrosial Greek yogurt is actually a yogurt drink, not spoonable yogurt.
For the spoonable yogurt category in China, the existing products are yogurt with fruit bites and traditional style yogurt (老酸奶). These traditional style yogurt usually takes the name of the local province, landmark or city such as old Beijing yogurt, old Mongolia yogurt and even old West Lake (Hangzhou) yogurt.
So far, the Greek yogurt has largely ignored the spoonable segment but it will eventually come and that’s when Chobani can shine if it takes the initiative.