It has also unveiled Simply 100 Crunch, a new 100-calorie mix-in product in three flavors featuring Greek yogurt and crunchy bits on the side.
Simply 100, which is sweetened with monk fruit and stevia, was the top dairy product in IRI’s pacesetters report in 2014* (which highlights the most successful new product introductions of the year), and along with Flip, will be a big focus for Chobani in 2016 because a large percentage of its sales (43%) are incremental, chief marketing and brand officer Peter McGuinness told FoodNavigator-USA.
“Half of this 43% is from [light] yogurt shoppers buying additional products and the other half is from people that were not shopping the light category before, so we’re bringing new people into the category.
“We were late to the light game but for a good reason. We could have gone in with a product that used artificial sweeteners or preservatives, but that’s not who we are as a brand, and this campaign is fundamentally about choice, about artificial versus natural, about educating the consumer to make better choices.
“Simply 100 is the only 100-calorie Greek yogurt without artificial sweeteners or preservatives.”
These are not attack ads, they are truth ads
The ads - which flag up the use of so-called ‘bad stuff’ in rival products – imply that Simply 100 is a better choice.
One print ad – in the form of an open letter that will appear in major publications including the New York Times and the Boston Globe – includes a picture of Dannon Light & Fit Greek yogurt with the phrase: “There’s sucralose used as a sweetener in Dannon Light & Fit Greek! Sucralose? Why? That stuff has chlorine added to it.”
Next to a picture of Yoplait Greek 100, it says: “Look, there’s potassium sorbate as a preservative in Yoplait Greek 100. Potassium sorbate? Really? That stuff is used to kill bugs.”
Asked whether it was responsible to attack legal ingredients that are considered safe by the US Food & Drug Administration, McGuinness said: “These aren’t attack ads, these are tell-the-truth ads. They illuminate. Not all yogurts are created equal and we want consumers to make informed choices.”
Significant distribution gains
Up until recently, he said, Simply 100 experienced low trial and awareness but high repeat purchase rates, but is poised for strong growth in 2016 after achieving “significant distribution gains in the January shelf resets”, making this the ideal time to launch a national campaign.
New Year is also a time many consumers think more carefully about what they are eating, with a third of all ‘light’ yogurt consumed in the first three months of the year, he added.
The thoughtful weight manager
The 12-week ad campaign - which is designed to encourage switching from rival ‘light’ brands and to drive incremental sales to the light category – includes national TV ads, print ads, social media, digital/mobile ads, PR, sampling, couponing and shopper marketing activity.
The target consumer is the ‘thoughtful weight manager’, typically a woman aged 25-45 that is watching her weight, but is interested in eating healthily rather than crash dieting, he said.
Dannon: Ad is 'untrue and irresponsible'
However, Michael Neuwirth, senior director of public relations at Dannon, told FoodNavigator-USA that the ad was "untrue and irresponsible".
He added: "Millions of people enjoy Light & Fit Greek nonfat yogurt because it tastes great, it has 80 calories per 5.3oz cup, and it is available in so many delicious flavors as a healthy option. Like many reduced calorie foods, Light & Fit Greek yogurt contains sucralose.
"Chobani’s suggestion that Light & Fit Greek is unsafe is untrue, irresponsible, misleading to consumers, and harmful to our brand. Sucralose is an FDA approved ingredient, and it is a safe and widely used sweetener in foods, and it has been for over 15 years. We intend to pursue all available remedies to address Chobani’s misleading and irresponsible advertising."
Click HERE to go to the Simply 100 website.
Click HERE to read more about the Greek yogurt market.
Click HERE to read our CEO vox pop on 'natural' claims.
Watch one of the new ads below:
*IRI’s pacesetter report looks at year one multi-outlet dollar sales for brands that completed their first year of sales in 2014. The clock starts ticking "when a product hits 30% distribution and lasts 52 weeks", explains IRI, so would cover, for example, sales of a brand that hit 30% ACV in September 2013 and completed its first full year of sales in September 2014.
According to these criteria, four Greek yogurt brands hit the top 10: Chobani Simply 100 at $120.9m, Activia Greek at $86.5m, Chobani Flip at $83.2m, and Yoplait Greek Blended at $69.4m.