Chobani chief marketing and brand officer Peter McGuinness told FoodNavigator-USA: “It’s not pumpkin spice flavor like a Starbucks latte, or pumpkin pie flavor as you see from some of our competitors. It’s real pumpkin puree and spices. And our new Apple & Cinnamon limited batch - which has also been really popular - contains apples and cinnamon.
“We’ve been flavor innovators from the beginning, introducing blood orange, passion fruit and pomegranate, which were firsts, but we also want to be topical, seasonal and fun, and our grapefruit and watermelon flavors [introduced in the summer] were both huge hits as well.”
So will these limited editions make the core range?
Said McGuiness: “If limited batches are really popular we’ll bring them back by popular demand and they could become permanent SKUs. But Pumpkin Spice has just been crazy. It’s the fastest-growing SKU in the history of the company.”
Next wave of new products set for January 2015
So how are some other recent launches doing?
Oats has been a “real gangbuster”, but because many retailers were late in implementing their summer range re-sets, many of Chobani’s new summer launches have only been on shelf a few weeks, he said.
“We don’t have full ACV yet but we’re seeing great repeat purchases for Chobani Oats, and we’ve exceeded our targets a bit for that product.”
A flurry of new launches is also planned for January including products in pouches, new additions to the Oats, Simply 100, Flip, and indulgent ranges that will be supported by a “marketing blitz” said McGuiness, although he has not yet decided whether to advertise at the Superbowl again.
“Our Almond Coco-Loco Flip product has got a 50% repeat rate, which is incredible. Products like this work really well as an afternoon snack, a bridge between lunch and dinner instead of having a candy bar. The whole mix-in category is growing at 30% year-on-year, albeit off a small base.
“We’re bringing incremental growth to the category and trying to expand the day parts [in which people consume yogurts] instead of just trying to gain short term increases in market share.”
The launch of the firm’s first organic product - originally scheduled to launch this summer - has been pushed back to 2015 because Chobani has been unable to secure sufficient supplies of organic milk to support the launch, he said.
I’ve read all the stuff about natural claims sounding hollow, but for Chobani, natural is credible and believable
So what does he make of the current debate over ‘all-natural’ claims? Have they lost their resonance with consumers?
No, said McGuiness, although he acknowledges the term has been “used and abused” by some food marketers and has only served to “confuse” consumers in many cases.
But ‘natural’ remains central to Chobani’s philosophy and its marketing platform, he argued. “Consumers trust us when we says we use ‘only natural ingredients’.
“I’ve read all the stuff about natural claims sounding hollow, but for Chobani, natural is credible and believable. It’s part of the DNA of the brand, and it’s a compelling point of difference for us compared with some of our competitors, who use artificial sweeteners, preservatives, thickeners and milk that is not rBST-free.
“We’ve done a lot of research on claims and natural is the number one. But it depends on the category. Think about it. Yogurt is the last thing that should be unnatural.”