Once upon a time in 2013, someone realized that men were being left out when it came to the marketing of a certain probiotic-laden, protein-heavy dairy product. Yes, we're talking about yogurt, which had traditionally been marketed toward women.
And so came the dawn of "brogurt," as coined by the blog Grub Street back when it featured an article on Powerful, a yogurt company in Miami, Florida that was making yogurt for men.
"We got a kick out of the term ['brogurt']," said Sarah Goldthwait, marketing and communications director for Powerful, in an email. "When we launched, the yogurt aisle was basically a no man's land. Our 'yogurt for men' approach aimed to disrupt a category that was conservative, dormant and dominated by sameness.'"
While Grub Street and others poked fun at the gender-biased brand, which touts a bull on its product packaging, Powerful prides itself as a pioneer in the brogurt category.
"We were the first and only company across the entire dairy aisle to launch with a focus on men," said Goldthwait. "[Excluding women] was a risk, but clearly even the big players were watching and validating our approach, if you look at some of the more recent additions to the yogurt aisle."
ProYo, also dubbed a maker of brogurt, debuted in 2013 and found that "guys just wouldn't buy ProYo until they understood what women inherently got—that [our yogurt products] had great health benefits, especially for those who were following a high-protein, low-fat diet," said Nathan Carey, founder of ProYo. "Based on this feedback, we made a conscious choice when finalizing our packaging design to make it stand out in the marketplace, and be attractive to both men and women."
Yoplait took a similar approach last fall, when it launched the video ad campaign, "A Man Of Yogurt," for Yoplait Greek 100 starring the beefy actor Dominic Purcell. It was a new spin for the General Mills-owned brand, and one that helped to masculinize, however humorously, the light and fluffy food traditionally portrayed as the choice of women.
"It's true most yogurt advertising from the past several decades prominently features women. This trend ramped up in the '80s and '90s, when diet and weight loss trends led the category to focus efforts on women to communicate the health benefits of the product — and many yogurt brands continue that female-first strategy today," said Helen Kurtz, VP of marketing for Yoplait in an email, adding that Yoplait launched "A Man of Yogurt" to branch out and include the male demographic.
"Through ["Man of Yogurt'], we aimed to appeal to both men and women by bucking the convention that yogurt is just for women," said Kurtz. "Overall, we want Yoplait to be enjoyed by every member of the family, and we know that in order for that to happen our brand message needs to resonate with both men and women."
Surely, the nutritional benefits of yogurt for men have always existed — they just haven't been emphasized by yogurt brands until recently.
"When you look at the typical consumer of yogurt, it is women and kids," said Darren Seifer, industry analyst for the NPD Group. "The segment of the population that has been under-represented in yogurt consumption is men, so these companies are trying to 'man up' yogurt."
What companies should not be doing in their marketing, Seifer says, is excluding people.
"I think what marketers are trying to do is not say that their product is for one or another, but market the same product to different types of people," said Seifer.
Powerful, which started out as "for men," is now appealing to women, and sees an even split of sales between men and women, said Goldthwait.
"Two-thirds of men and women today report that protein helps provide energy throughout the day, so it really isn't a gender issue," said Goldthwait. "From the moment we launched, we've had just as much great feedback from women as we have from men."
ProYo has also moved beyond the brogurt hype.
"Because ProYo was created by an athletic guy, had black packaging and high protein, we were often lumped into brogurt stories," said Mike Fransz, VP of marketing at ProYo.
"Our belief is that to be around for years to come as a nutritional and natural product, we have to have a broader appeal beyond capitalizing on the 'brogurt' trend," Carey said.
So, "brogurt" may be over, but yogurt that includes men in its marketing efforts is here to stay.
That may be a good move, considering that increasingly "men are the primary grocery shoppers and are [generally] doing more in the kitchen," said Seifer.