When Waitrose launched its own-brand vegetable yoghurts into stores in 2017 – a year after Arla released Big Yogs for children in flavours such as strawberry and carrot as well as blueberry and pumpkin – it seemed as though a new trend was about to emerge.
Waitrose’s flavoured Greek yoghurts – apple, carrot, beetroot and ginger; pineapple, butternut squash and turmeric – were to be the supermarket’s first foray into a snack that had gripped America in a big way.
The foodie scene in NYC took to vegetable yoghurts around five years ago after cult restaurant Blue Hills, based to the north of Manhattan Island, secured a listing in Whole Foods. The product quickly went national.
Popular brand Chobani followed suit in 2016, releasing two flavours, with the pair being the first mass-marketed savoury yoghurts in the country.
As with desserts, vegetables in yoghurt is hardly a new concept – the Greeks are huge advocates, while it’s also prevalent across Asian cuisine and the Middle East. Yet in 2017, it somehow hadn’t yet made an impact in the UK.
All signs pointed to savoury yoghurt’s long-awaited arrival in the UK’s mass-market retail space. But Waitrose delisted its renditions earlier this year, and it seemed as though the concept was destined to remain almost exclusively in the restaurant and recipe scene.
However, a concerted push is now being made to resuscitate the idea, with Cambridgeshire-based start-up The Veggie Plot securing a listing this month for its range of vegetable yoghurts to be sold in Ocado.
Plotting a Course
The Veggie Plot was launched last year by entrepreneur Anna Spencer, who mixes Greek-style yoghurt made from British milk with purées across five separate variants: beetroot; cucumber and dill; avocado; Mediterranean roast veg; and red pepper.
“The savoury yoghurt is a concept that’s had huge success in the US and the rest of the world, and it’s only a matter of time before it really kicks off here,” Spencer tells Food Spark.
“The foodie scene here has now evolved, so we have a more adventurous consumer who’s much more willing to try new things. Eating habits have changed in the UK over the last five to ten years, and we’re now much more aware of the food that we eat.”
Bigger brands than The Veggie Plot have tried and failed with savoury yoghurts, so how does Spencer intend to succeed?
“Companies have tried before in this country, but I think the whole ‘vegetable yoghurts with fruit’ idea wasn’t great. There’s just too much going on in there. We focus all our efforts on just vegetables,” says Spencer, who comes from a catering background. “With trends such as flexitarianism, sugar-free and also environmental concerns, an all-natural vegetable yoghurt is both trendy and very much the consensus.”
Spencer came up with the idea of tackling the market while sitting in her garden, initially hoping to utilise the produce she was growing there.
“I wanted to make something very easy to use and to integrate into the everyday food scene. I’m very much a foodie myself (and a bit of a food rebel!),” she explains. “I took milk as my hook and came up with a Greek yoghurt, with no added sugar, preservatives or additions of any kind other than a natural vegetable and herb purée. It’s very versatile and I think the concept will soon become a food staple – finally!
“Obviously now I can’t make enough produce in my garden for the amount of yoghurts I’m producing, but my yoghurt producers in Yorkshire have plenty of local veggie suppliers who I now use. We will always try to use British when we can.”
Don’t forget the vegans
The Veggie Plot yoghurts have arrived on the scene amid the biggest vegan wave in recent memory, and Spencer reveals that she’s “working on some top secret ways on how to enter the vegan scene.”
“I’m not a vegan or a veggie myself but, like a lot of people now, a few of my meals each week are invariably vegan or veggie,” she adds “It’s a super important trend and embracing it means resonating with more consumers. Our target audience is, well, everyone!”