Alexander, who left Campbell Soup in April following a 29-year career at the CPG giant in which he held multiple leadership roles (most recently as president, Americas), said Icelandic Provisions had been growing strongly, while the overall category had struggled over the last 18 months.
“We grew about 87% last year, and we're the fastest growing of the top-30 brands in the category,” he told FoodNavigator-USA.
“At the core we have an outstanding product and brand that's resonating with consumers, and we see that in terms of the strong repeat rates and the velocities where it is in distribution. We're only in a little over 6,000 stores, so there are significant opportunities to increase distribution and get more consumers to try the product because we still have relatively low levels of trial.
Krímí whole milk skyr debuting at Expo West
He added: "The team here has done a great job getting the brand and the business to where they are today. It's a rapid buildout and expansion job, and I'm super excited about the growth prospects and think the core range can grow substantially from where it is now.
"But there are also other places we can take the brand. To start with we're bringing out a whole milk version called Krímí, a more indulgent whole fat variation on our core product, which you'll see at Expo West and will roll out midway through the year."
While the overall yogurt category has slowed down over the last 12-18 months, he said, "The category is still relatively immature in the US compared to Europe but also compared to Canada, so I don't see any reason why the best days of the category should be behind it."
Asked about aggressive promotional activity in the category, he said: "We do promotions from time to time but we don't need to a lot of deep discounting to drive sales."
Skyr: High in protein, low in sugar
While skyr is "really still in its infancy in the US," said Alexander, consumers like the fact that it is a traditional strained dairy product that’s been consumed in Iceland for hundreds of years.
The story behind Icelandic Provisions - which has been in the US market for about three years - also has a certain allure, said Alexander, noting that the brand uses Icelandic heirloom cultures and is manufactured in partnership with Iceland’s oldest farmer-owned dairy.
However, the taste, texture and nutritionals also set skyr apart in the yogurt category, even compared with Greek, which has more protein and less sugar than regular yogurt, says the company, which says each 150g cup of Icelandic Provisions skyr – with 1.5% milk fat - typically contains a couple of grams more protein and about 30% less sugar than Greek yogurt.
This is in part because the cultures deliver a less tart/tangy taste that is sometimes associated with Greek yogurt, so you don’t have to use as much sugar to mask it, claims Icelandic Provisions.
Co-founded by Polaris Founders Capital (PFC) and Mjólkursamsalan (MS) Iceland Dairies, the largest farmer-owned cooperative in Iceland representing over 650 Icelandic family farms and milk producers, Icelandic Provisions is funded by Iceland and US investors.
The executive management team includes CPG veterans with experience at Chobani, Dannon and other innovative brands from barkThins to Quorn.
Although MS started exporting skyr to Whole Foods stores in the US under the skyr.is brand several years ago, it was only available in limited quantities in the Northeast. The January 2016 launch of Icelandic Provisions skyr– which was originally manufactured in Iceland but has been made in the US since early 2017 – is bringing the product to a far wider audience.
Icelandic Provisions skyr comes in nine flavors: plain, vanilla, key lime, strawberry lingonberry, blueberry bilberry, peach cloudberry, coconut, raspberry, and cherry blackcurrant. The line is sold in major US retailers including Whole Foods, Wegmans, and ShopRite.