Yoplait, founded in France in 1965, has crossed borders and jumped shores to become a global portfolio of brands loved by families in over 50 countries worldwide.

Launching in the UK in 1991, Yoplait’s production has flourished and we now produce over 67,000 tonnes (that’s the same weight as 370 jumbo jets!) of yogurt, fromage frais, and dairy desserts for the UK every year.

Joanna Goodman, Head of Marketing, Yogurt (Northern Europe) at Yoplait’s parent company General Mills spoke to Grocery Trader.

How is Yoplait currently performing vs the market?

Yoplait is leading the kids’ yogurt turnaround (value sales +6% past 12 weeks & +9.4% past 4 weeks) and gaining market share (+2.3pp in past 12 weeks & +2.6pp in past 4 weeks)1.

Last year had seen a decline in kids’ yogurt sales mainly driven by a reduction of space on shelves versus adult offerings combined with a misconception that all kids’ yogurts have a high sugar content.

As a result, some shoppers have substituted kids’ yogurt for adult yogurt in their children’s diets, with the mantra that one size fits all.

However, it is important for people to understand that this is not the case. Kids’ yogurts are carefully designed to meet the specific nutritional needs of kids while delivering a taste they love. Most kids’ yogurt is fortified with vitamin D – important to absorb calcium – this is crucial for the development of normal bones. Also portion sizes and calories per serving are appropriate and not above the recommended amount for children as is often the case with adult yogurts.

The role of kids’ yogurt is very important as it recruits consumers into the whole category. We are now succeeding in leading the turn-around by educating consumers and shoppers on the benefits of kids’ yogurt and developing and launching breakthrough innovation. Petits Filous Mess Free drinkable yogurt is testament to this. This innovation – launched just less than a year ago – has driven the growth of the Drinkable segment to +14.2%2, recruiting families into the category.

What are the peak times of day for consumption of yogurts?

Kids’ yogurt is increasingly enjoyed as a snack during the day, in kids’ lunchboxes and at the end of a meal. It is incredibly versatile whether a spoon is required or not as is the case for pouches, tubes and drinks which are perfect on-the-go solutions.

Tell us about your latest new product developments. How are they performing?

We launched two breakthrough innovation platforms in 2019 which are performing exceptionally well.

Recognising the increasing importance of convenience for modern parents, in March 2019 we introduced the Petits Filous Mess Free format – the first of its kind in the UK. Today, it is the number one Kids Drinkable Yogurt, providing children with the goodness of Petits Filous, but with less mess thanks to an anti-spill cap. Since launch it has achieved £3m value sales, totalling 1.4% market share within Kids and 38% market share within Kids’ Drinkable3. It is now the #1 kids’ innovation of the past three years.

In October 2019, we launched our very first Petits Filous no added sugar range. Made with naturally sourced ingredients, it has 4.9g of sugar per 100g. It is now the bestselling no added sugar product in the market. Since launch it has achieved £0.4m value sales in four months, totalling 0.5% market share.

What do you see as the key opportunities for brand growth and how are you addressing them?

Health and convenience will continue to be important for the future, so our focus is on ensuring that we meet these consumer needs.

Educating consumers on the benefits of kids’ yoghurt is another vital area of focus for us and here we are increasing our partnerships with retailers and campaigns such as Change for Life.

What future plans are in the pipeline for Yoplait?

We have got an exciting year ahead of us for Petits Filous. We are introducing a total renovation of the core range, which will see a new and improved recipe that has seen a series of step changes. while maintaining the great taste kids love. The new recipe will be supported by a packaging refresh – the real fruit images have been transformed into fun characters to demonstrate the brand’s playfulness. It will also be clear to shoppers that the brand has reformulated its recipe thanks to a new on pack sticker.

To ensure that consumers are engaged with this, we will be supporting heavily above-the-line this year, and we cannot wait for everyone to see it this summer.

Along with our core renovation we plan to expand further our 2019 winning innovation Petits Filous Mess Free and No Added Sugar – so watch this space!

We are proud to have yogurt brands which deliver for all ages and stages and will continue to support Frubes, the brand of cheeky fun, with new TV and digital campaigns this year.

Lastly, we plan to increase our focus on the YOP brand, where there is a huge opportunity to play a role in ensuring teens and young adults consume the nutrients they need, and don’t always get, with a great taste they’ll love.

How has the yogurt market and the grocery industry in general been affected by the current COVID-19 crisis?

Maintaining supply has been our number one priority whilst ensuring the safety of our workforce. We have seen shoppers gravitate towards certain categories during lockdown, for General Mills Kids Yogurt, Baking Mixes (Betty Crocker), Meal Kits (Old El Paso) and Canned Goods (Green Giant) have seen significant uplifts as consumers look for easy meal solutions and ways to keep their children entertained and nourished.

We have been collaborating closely with our retailer partners to ensure strong availability. We are continuing to support our brands above-the-line with communications relevant to the changes that consumers have had to make in their lives. For example, parents are looking for healthy snacks and ways to keep their kids entertained during lock-down so we have been able to provide digital inspiration on how to get creative with your kids using empty packaging and cardboard to create a Pirate Ship!

What advice would you give to supermarkets to manage during the crisis?

Keeping shoppers and staff safe and availability high are clearly priorities. In a massive national effort, we have seen retailers dramatically enhance their e-commerce operations to meet demand and prioritise the most vulnerable, sometimes in remarkably innovative and agile ways. We expect to see this business model evolution continue as retailers and suppliers adapt to changing shopper behaviours such as the accelerated growth of e-commerce and convenience.

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