With US offices in Parsippany, New Jersey, Valio USA currently imports and sells its plant-based cheese products to US foodservice accounts.
"Cheese has been a foodservice focus, so Oddlygood Oat Yogurt is our first US retail launch," Mari Meriluoto, director of marketing and business development for Valio USA, told FoodNavigator-USA.
'We're all about taste'
New to the US market, but not to Valio's home market of Finland where the products have been available for the past three years, Oddlygood yogurts have performed very well in consumer taste tests, outperforming other leading oat-based yogurt brands in taste, aroma, and texture, according to Meriluoto.
"The number one objective with this launch was to make it a great-tasting product because we realized there are so many plant-based yogurts that we believe consumers are settling for just because they’re plant-based, and they're not really able to enjoy them," noted Meriluoto.
Many plant-based yogurts are notorious for lacking the same mouthfeel and texture of dairy yogurts, but according to Meriluoto, Oddlygood's manufacturing process -- "a trade secret," she said -- has been perfected over many years of R&D in Finland where the company has achieved optimal creaminess while masking off notes from pea protein.
"We’re all about taste. There is this white space in the yogurt category for a good-tasting dairy alternative product," she added.
The ingredients include: water, oat flour, cane sugar, pea protein, canola oil, tricalcium phosphate, calcium carbonate, salt, vitamin B12, vitamin D2, cultures (i.e. non-dairy L. Acidophilus, Bifidobacterium lactis strains), and enzymes.
'We have found that consumers expect the same kind of nutritional benefits from dairy-based yogurts'
Each single-serve cup of Oddlygood yogurt contains between 110-120 calories, 3g of protein, and 7-14g of sugar.
While the line has less protein than Greek yogurt and Icelandic skyr yogurt products, Meriluoto said improving its nutritional profile is an ongoing goal for the brand.
"We have found that consumers expect the same kind of nutritional benefits from dairy-based yogurts as non-dairy-based yogurts and that’s what we were striving for," she said.
The line will feature four flavors (plain, vanilla, blueberry, and raspberry) packaged in 5.3-ounce single serve containers for a suggested retail price of $1.99/per package.
Not yet available at retail, Meriluoto said US production (using oats sourced from Canada) of the yogurt will begin in January and the company will be first targeting retailers in the natural channel.
Oddlygood oat-based yogurts debuted at the Plant Based World Expo this week in New York City where the company is hopeful that the in-person event will attract key retailers to its booth where attendees can sample the product.
"From a business perspective, it's very exciting to have these in-person expos starting again. Of course, we can send samples and ask our partners and customers to give their feedback, but it's totally different to be in-person and have a dialogue," added Ann-Mari Hämäläinen, CEO of Valio USA.
'Tremendous opportunity' for plant-based yogurt
Still just a fraction of the size of other non-dairy categories such as plant-based milk alternatives (which generated $2.5bn in 2020), plant-based yogurt US retail sales grew +20.2% to $343m in 2020, according to SPINS data.
Meriluoto and Hämäläinen see "tremendous opportunity" in the plant-based yogurt category, especially for oat-based products as consumers adopt oats in other areas of the store such as milk and creamer alternatives.
"The majority of plant-based yogurts are based off of coconut, almond, or soy," noted Hämäläinen, who added that compared to the Nordics region, oat is still an emerging ingredient for the plant-based yogurt category in the US market.
To support the US launch and expansion of the Oddlygood brand, Valio USA has added three new regional sales positions to engage with new customers and retail accounts.
"I’m very hopeful for the growth of the brand in 2022," added Hämäläinen.