Who would have thought that the good old humble ‘dahi’ would get anglicised, processed and packed. Dahi (or curd) is an integral part of the Indian diet. It is consumed in various forms like plain dahi, accompaniment or refreshment with meals. It is also used as an ingredient in several dishes which require either fresh or sour dahi. According to Ayurveda, dahi is a beneficial substitute for people allergic to milk, is a body coolant, improves digestion, controls bodyweight, is beneficial for diabetics and also increases bioavailability of calcium particularly in women and growing children. Dahi also improves bioavailability of milk proteins, and is a good source of vitamins.

Once a prime produce of sweet makers, cultured in clay pans and delivered in portions cut by a spatula, or a preserve of the homemaker, dahi has now evolved into a national packaged product with many names and brands. Widespread sale of dahi is more a cultural revolution than a marketing skill. Homemaker now checks the uniformity in taste, flavour, texture, colour and of course the packing. She decides whether to buy a family pack or a single serve. Institutional customers have their preferences and reasons to buy and serve.

While it would be difficult to trace the history, perhaps it was the Mother Dairy Kolkata that commercialised ‘Mishti Doi’ cups in Indian Airlines flights in 1989. Subsequently in 1992, a first-of-its-kind market survey done by the Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation Ltd (Amul) indicated that more then 30 per cent of the housewives were in favour of Amul launching packaged dahi. Amul test marketed good quality packaged dahi to household consumers in 1997 in Ahmedabad followed by launches in Mumbai and Delhi. Then, the state cooperatives and the private sector dairies jumped in. Thus a new market was created.

The principal strategy has been to make consumers shift from loose dahi sold by the non-organised sector to packaged dahi by the organised dairies. Changes have been brought first by identifying combinations of various lactobacilli that would give specific flavor, taste and texture. Next was to meet with requirement of packaging size, varying form 50 ml single serve to a family pack of one litre and institutional pack of 15 litres. These were topped by making the product good in quality, affordable in price and readily available in the neighbourhood store. Dahi was further supported by cousin buttermilk following the same footsteps.

 Segments and Size

According to a recent report, around 7 per cent of India’s milk production is utilised in making dahi. The sector is growing at more than 20 per cent every year. Dahi also accounts for around 90 per cent of the total cultured milk products produced in India.

It is estimated that the market for dahi would be above 1.5 million tonnes in 2016 and around 13.5 million tonnes by 2020. According to industry sources, sale of loose dahi currently exceeds that of the packaged brands because loose dahi costs less, is sold without refrigeration, has larger outlets, is easily available and has much better penetration in the semi-urban and rural areas. The branded dahi market is largely driven by urban consumers with a share of about 10 per cent of the total market. In the organised category, research estimates by CRISIL shows the market size at Rs 315 billion by 2015-16 from an estimated Rs 225 million and Rs 265 million in 2013-14 and 2014-15 respectively.

Some unique features of the dahi market in India are:

  • Dahi/Yogurt is shifting from informal to formal market — a big opportunity;
  • Southern cities represent a bigger market accounting for around 45 per cent of the market share (volume);
  • Dahi market is dominated by local players apart from GCMMF (Amul);
  • Plain dahi is the major volume contributor;
  • Probiotic and flavoured dahi (yogurt) is yet to grow.


Predominant variants and package type of plain dahi in Indian market

Variant/ Packaging Plain set dahi (Standardised milk and toned milk) Plain stirred dahi (Toned milk) Low Fat set dahi (Double toned milk) Low Fat stirred dahi (Double toned milk)

Fat free set dahi


Fat free stirred dahi


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Newer Dahi Variants in Indian Market

The regular plain dahi has a market share of around 80 to 82 per cent whereas frozen, flavoured, fruit, probiotic varieties have around 16 to 18 per cent according to a recent market report. Details of few brands of value added dahi, including yogurt, are:

Amul launched yogurt in 2011, branded as Flaavyo, in different flavours like mango, pineapple, strawberry, vanilla and mishti doi. It contains live probiotic bacteria helping in digestion and improving immunity. It is made with a special culture to give a smooth acidic taste. The brand is riding on the healthier and guilt-free dessert space.

Mother Dairy launched fruit yogurt in flavours like blueberry, raspberry, mango, plum, orange and green apple.

Britannia launched flavoured yogurts in mango, vanilla and strawberry flavours, fortified with five active nutrients of iron, iodine, calcium, zinc and vitamin A.

Danone launched its creamy stirred yogurt in 2011 in plain sweet, strawberry and pineapple flavours.

 Nestle launched ‘Nestle Milkmaid’ yogurt range in mango and strawberry flavours. The company claims that its yogurts are 98 per cent fat free.

Go/Gowardhan: Go yogurts claims to be made from real fruit pulp concentrate and 100 per cent cow milk. It is available in flavours like strawberry, pineapple, banana and mango and does not contain artificial flavours.

 Cocoberry: Entered Indian market in 2009, offers premium frozen yogurt, fresh fruit and yogurt smoothies, fruit platters, yogurt parfaits and sundaes. Cocoberry has around 50 stores in major cities. Their tagline is ‘100 per cent sin, zero per cent guilt’.

 Kiwi Kiss is a Canadian frozen yogurt being marketed mostly in South India. They claim freshness, deliciousness and being the tastiest frozen yogurt in India.

Red Mango: A US-based frozen yogurt chain entered in 2012 with outlets in metro cities. It claims to use calcium, protein, all-natural, non-fat or low fat, and certified gluten-free ingredients.

Yogurberry A South Korean household name, it commenced India operations in 2011. Its secret of success is freshness since it is made at each outlet in front of customers who can choose from daily prepared toppings. Yogurberry frozen yogurt contains no fat, no trans-fat, or cholesterol and guarantees low calories by using only fruit sugar.

 The probiotic and flavoured yogurt, as a category, is still at a nascent stage. Competition will only help in market growth. With a range of offerings in different formats, there is a need to exploit all these need gaps. Consumers today are health conscious and probiotic and fruit yogurt provides them a convenient and guilt-free indulgence, as well as a healthy alternative. Probiotic has scope for major growth of around 23 per cent in the future, as consumers perceive these products to be indispensable, specially for enhancing health and wellness. Currently though the sale of probiotic dahi remains metro centric.

The average per capita annual consumption of packaged dahi in India (including yogurts but does not include loose home-made dahi) is approximately 24 cups of 125 gm with urban consumption being around 1 kg. This indicates huge potential of packaged dahi in the future. In comparison, the per capita consumption in Netherlands, Turkey, France and Germany is 286 cups, 281 cups, 280 cups and 277 cups per annum respectively.

Issues and Challenges

Despite the large potential, many players find it hard to sustain in the market because of the following reasons:

  • Cold chain maintenance especially at the transportation and point of sales levels
  • Handling in transit and retail storage
  • Delivering sustainable consistent quality round the year
  • Manufacturing issues—bacteriophase, coliform etc.
  • Low shelf off take because of lack of consumer trust on the brand
  • Availability of good quality raw milk round the year
  • Sustaining distribution cost with low volume in the beginning.

Future Scope

The huge scope for organised market rests on the following facts:

  • Per capita dahi consumption in India is bound to increase multifold in future.
  • Major shift from loose to packed dahi.
  • On-the-Go segment consumption for packed dahi will increase
  • Dahi as accompaniment in breakfast, lunch, dinner will experience a larger presence.
  • With an increased eating out consumption, the institutional consumption of dahi will see a rise.
  • Hospitals, industrial canteens, school canteens will opt for more value-added dahi and other value-added dahi based products like Greek yogurt.

Packaged dahi and probiotic, flavoured or fruit yogurt has a potential demand building up in future. In the near future, probiotic advantage of dahi or yogurt, which is low calorie, low fat, with naturally good bacteria will drive the health conscious new generation — creating head on competition with carbonated drinks or even sweetened juices. Tremendous value addition is in offing in this category, to make it not only huge table use health product, but also healthy, natural, tasty, out-of-home food and drink in very near future.

This is clearly an opportunity that most companies have not looked into till now. With improved market communication and promotion of this product category as “cool” combined with the right product creativity — these products can compete with the well-known soft drink and juice brands.

The question therefore is: Is there someone in the market willing to look beyond the run-of-mill business and explore as well as tap this potential? Innovation has no boundaries — you just need to look around.