General Mills aims to make up for lost time through US yogurt innovations

By Mark Astley

- Last updated on GMT

General Mills launching 'strong' US innovation line-up for FY 2013
Yoplait manufacturer General Mills is set to launch a “strong innovation line-up” over the coming year in an effort to reclaim a greater share of the Greek-dominated US yogurt market.

The firm has announced plans to launch 40 yogurt innovations in the US during fiscal year (FY) 2013, in an effort to re-establish itself in a category that it has been slowly pushed out of by the continued popularity of Greek yogurt.

Greek yogurt, has witnessed dramatic growth since 2007, when it held just 1% of the US yogurt market. It has made significant gains at the expense of non-Greek offering - now holding around 35% - and shows no signs of slowing.

General Mills outlined its plans for the year, following the publication of its FY 2012 results.

The firm generated net sales of $16.7bn during the 12 month period – a net sales increase of 12% on FY 2011, of which the firm’s international Yoplait yogurt acquisition contributed 0.7%

“The international Yoplait business we acquired last July delivered strong results in 2012 and we’ve got plans for continued international yogurt growth in 2013,” ​said General Mills chairman and CEO Ken Powell during the firm’s earnings conference call.

Multiple segment innovations

“In the US, we are innovating across multiple segments of the yogurt category. We are the market leader in the light segment and we’re launching a lower calorie Greek offering – new Yoplait Greek 100 calorie yogurt,” ​said Powell.

“And we’re bringing product news to Yoplait Light; it’s now just 90 calories per cup. Both of these items are the only Weightwatchers-endorsed products in the category.”

“We believe this strong innovation line-up will renew sales growth for our US growth business in fiscal 2013.”

General Mills was a late entrant to the US Greek yogurt market, not launching its Yoplait Greek product until early 2010.

The product has failed to challenge the likes of Danone and Chobani, and its share of the US Greek yogurt market has dropped to 5.7% after peaking at 8.1% earlier this year.

Expanded Greek offering

Earlier this month, Wall Street research firm Sanford C. Bernstein reported that the US Greek yogurt market had become a “two horse race”​ between Chobani and Danone, adding that Yoplait was unlikely to become a major player in the market.

General Mills is hoping to side-step this suggestion by expanding its Greek yogurt offering beyond Yoplait.

Our US yogurt innovation extends beyond the Yoplait brand. Liberte is the leading player in Canada’s fast emerging Greek segment,”​ Powell added.

The firm will begin a US regional roll-out of Liberte Greek yogurt in the summer with a six item launch. It will also increase its distribution of Liberte Méditerranée and expand its regional Mountain High large size business to a national offering.

Fiscal year 2013 will also see the launch of Yoplait Simplait – a natural yogurt containing just six ingredients – and a new fruit rich yogurt offering called Yoplait Fruplait.

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