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by Kate McMahon

Call it a case of disrupter redux.

Seven years ago, I wrote a column here about an upstart brand revolutionizing the dairy case. Last week, as reported on MNB, upstart-turned-industry leader Chobani announced plans to disrupt the yogurt universe once again.

For starters, the company that propelled Greek yogurt from one percent of the yogurt category to almost half of it over 10 years, is dropping the words Greek yogurt from its logo. Chobani is also adding a reduced-sugar line and has an ambitious marketing plan and significant product redesign in the works.

Chobani’s chief marketing officer Peter McGuiness told CNBC that the company’s goal is “to bring the magic back to the yogurt shelf.”

That shelf is certainly more crowded with competitors these days. Still, sales of Greek yogurt have dropped nearly five percent in the 52 weeks ending October 28, according to Nielsen. Overall yogurt sales are on the decline as well.

Since its inception in 2007, Chobani easily vanquished the traditional Fage Greek yogurt brand and had major heavy hitters such as Yoplait, Dannon and Kraft scrambling to get in the game. The result – a plethora of almost indistinguishable containers with variations of fat and sugar content, flavors and toppings.

Interestingly, three new competitors with an international flair are getting attention – particularly among millennials. Siggi’s Dairy is an American brand of skyr – a thick, high-protein Icelandic version of yogurt – that focuses on low sugar offerings. It is reported to be the fastest-growing new yogurt, with sales up 80 percent from 2015 to 2016. (It’s also the yogurt of choice for my 22-year-old daughter and her roommates.)

Noosa Yoghurt is a creamy Australian-style yogurt made with whole milk, honey and fruit. Billing itself as “indulgent,” Noosa recently introduced Noosa Mates with mix-ins such as coconut, almond and chocolate, comparable to Chobani’s Flip yogurts.

Yoplait is hoping to regain traction with Oui, a French-style yogurt which is poured, cultured and sold in a reusable glass pot.

Chobani hinted at its upcoming change this year when it introduced Smooth, a “classic” non-Greek yogurt. The company’s announcement last week signaled it was moving beyond just yogurt and aimed to become “food-focused wellness company” in its second decade.

While I am not a fan of Chobani’s new packaging – from the logo’s serif font to the fruit illustrations on the containers – I applaud the company for its timing and strategy. (You can judge for yourself about the new packaging, which you c an see below. The Content Guy told me that he bought some coffee and cream Chobani the other day, and liked it a lot … but that he was a little dismayed by how small the words “whole fat” were on the label. It seemed, he told me, a little less than transparent.)

I agree with marketing management expert Gary Stibel, founder and CEO of New England Consulting Group, who told me Chobani had to make the bold move if it wanted to remain a disrupter.

“The way disrupters become disrupters is by constantly disrupting themselves as well as others. It’s perpetual change, perpetual improvement,” he said. “Had Chobani not done that they would become on old tired legacy brand. And in the food and beverage industry there are hundreds of those sitting on shelves gathering dust.”

This illustrates the challenges of disruption – how to implement significant change without losing brand equity that you have built up over time. I’ve been a steady Chobani non-fat plain Greek yogurt customer for seven years, so I will be paying close attention to the anticipated action in the dairy case.

Comments? Observations? As always, send them to me at .

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