The data, collated by Roy Morgan Research, indicate that Australians are gravitating towards healthier ways of eating, with flavoured and fruit varieties of yoghurt losing popularity to natural and plain varieties.
In the 12 months to September 2015, 48 per cent of Australians 14 and over reported eating flavoured/fruit yoghurt in an average four weeks, down from 52 per cent back in September 2011.
Over the same period, the proportion eating natural/plain yoghurt surged from 36 per cent to 43 per cent, closing the gap on its historically more popular flavoured equivalent.
The research company cites hidden sugars and a growing health awareness as the central factors driving the shift in yoghurt preferences.
“While a greater proportion of Australians still eat fruit/flavoured yoghurt than natural, the gap is closing,” said Michele Levine, CEO, Roy Morgan Research.
“This increased tendency towards natural/plain yoghurt may well be the result of the public becoming more aware of the hidden sugars in so many flavoured yoghurts, or part of a broader move towards more ‘natural’ foods. It is certainly noteworthy that Aussies who eat natural yoghurt every day are nearly 50 per cent more likely than the average Australian to agree that ‘I try to buy organic food whenever I can,” she continued.
Natural yoghurt’s newfound popularity appears to be an equal-opportunity phenomenon, with ever-increasing numbers of men and women enjoying it.
Between October 2010 and September 2015, the proportion of Australian men who ate natural yoghurt in an average four weeks grew from 30 per cent to 36 per cent, while the proportion of women eating it rose from 41 per cent to 49 per cent.
The frequency with which Australians eat natural/plain yoghurt has also risen over the last few years. Some 23 per cent of natural-yoghurt eaters consume it on a daily basis (up from 17 per cent in 2011) – almost the same proportion as fruit/flavoured yoghurt eaters who eat theirs every day (25 per cent).
Levine says it is imperative for dairy manufacturers and marketers to retain awareness of the burgeoning health movement so that their brands stay relevant.
“It is essential for dairy brands with a flavoured yoghurt range to stay abreast of shifting attitudes and behaviour among Australian consumers, and adjust their marketing communications and brand image accordingly,” she said.