Essays on Greek Yogurt in the US Market


The US yogurt market has been volatile in the last decade, marked by striking sales increases and dramatic market structure changes. According to an industry report, dollar sales of yogurt in 2017 reached $8.8 billion---a more than 80% increase from 2007. Such remarkable sales growth can be attributed to the rapid rise of Greek yogurt, which has been established as a subcategory accounting for more than half of the category sales. Chobani, a new entrant, has played an important role in this development, as it elevated Greek yogurt from niche to a mass-market trending product. With the increasing popularity of Greek yogurt, Chobani has grown to be one of the largest brands in the highly competitive yogurt category. The two large category incumbents, Dannon and Yoplait, launched Greek yogurt two years later than Chobani. Dannon was able to grow quickly through subsequent introduction of successful new products, whereas Yoplait experienced a significant sales decline and has lost its number-one leading position. As a result, the market structure has changed radically from a duopoly to a three-firm oligopoly. This dissertation studies those dynamic changes in the yogurt category caused by the development of Greek yogurt and the entry of Chobani. The first chapter introduces the dynamic changes in the US yogurt category from 2006 to 2015. I first show empirical evidences on the rapid sales growth and the dramatic changes in brand market share. Then, I describe how those changes occurred by documenting the entry and market expansion of Chobani, the competitive response from Dannon and Yoplait, as well as the changes in consumer purchases. This chapter comprehensively describes the development of Greek yogurt in the US market and the consequent category evolution. It delineates the transition process from regular to Greek yogurt. After introducing the dynamic changes in the category, I conduct two empirical investigations. First, in chapter 2, I examine the effect of learning on consumer purchase of Greek yogurt. Because Greek yogurt is relatively new in the US market, consumers may be uncertain about their preference and have to learn how much they like Greek yogurt from consumption. To study the role of uncertainty in Greek yogurt purchase, I construct a demand model of consumer learning and apply it to individual level purchase data. Using the estimated parameters from the demand model, I then predict brand shares when uncertainty on Greek yogurt is removed. The results show that Greek yogurt brands can gain much larger market shares if consumers had full information about their preference. This simple simulation experiment suggests that learning plays an important role in consumer purchase of Greek yogurt. The third chapter studies the entry effect of Dannon and Yoplait on Chobani's store sales. In 2010, Dannon and Yoplait launched Greek yogurt. In many stores the two brands entered, Chobani had been on shelves for a long time. The store sales of Chobani in those stores could decrease due to the increased competition from Dannon and Yoplait. On the other hand, Greek yogurt was a developing subcategory with very few brand offerings, the introduction of new varieties from the two big brands can expand the subcategory that might benefit Chobani. Thus, the impact of the two incumbents' subcategory entry on Chobani's sales is ambiguous. Chapter 3 investigates this empirical ambiguity using a differences-in-differences framework. With proper control for store sales growth trends, I find that Chobani's sales decreased in stores that Dannon entered, whereas sales in stores that Yoplait entered had an increasing trend a few weeks following Yoplait's entry. The asymmetric entry impact can be caused by the product and price differences of the two category incumbents.

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