Not just desserts

Related tags Yoghurt Organic food Milk Danone

Not just desserts
Manufacturers are developing more functionality into their yoghurts to meet today’s polarising consumer demands. Gail Hunt reports

Anyone thinking of entering the dairy desserts market or wanting to tempt consumers with their latest yoghurts cannot ignore the consumer trends of health, indulgence and convenience now sweeping the market.

All the action sees healthy yoghurts offering added health benefits and indulgent products becoming more indulgent. Take your pick, but your new yoghurt has to meet one of these needs or it could get stuck in the centre ground of traditional, standard fruit yoghurts which are the ones said to be struggling at the moment.

The total market in June was worth about £1.468bn with yoghurt representing just over £829m. Müller dominates the category with its various Müller Corners and launched a new ‘Healthy Balance’ range in April. Müllerlight has also added a new Cherry Bakewell Tart flavour to its range of dessert-style yoghurts.

The own-label sector is number two in the yoghurt market and then comes various brands, none of which have more than 8% share.

Yoghurts and pot desserts are naturally convenient, but the rapid growth of ‘spoon-free’ active health drinks shows that increased convenience is a continuing desire of today’s time-pressed consumers. Danone has invested heavily in advertising Actimel - with over £9m spent on the product in 2004.The launch of new brands and new flavour offerings into this sector has also helped to broaden the appeal - for example, Danacol, Flora PA, Benecol Strawberry and Actimel Pineapple 0%.

According to Danone, the market is polarised between health and indulgence and consumers are looking for some products with ‘added value’. On health, for instance, the development of the functional market has led to the amazing growth of brands supported by strong health promises such as Activia. The same trend appears on indulgence with products offering more textures and taste. Müller Amoré is expanding its range by introducing two new Continental Mousse flavours to ensure this premium brand continues to offer irresistible products.

“With premium products taking centre stage across all markets, it is vital that Müller’s premium brand continues to update and diversify to ensure consumer interest, all while maintaining the brand’s ‘Continental’ signature,” says Chris McDonough, Müller UK marketing director.

Health means different things to different people and this has to be remembered by new product developers. For some, health means ‘low in fat’ others maybe ‘low in calories’ or ‘low in sugar’. Others will look for specific health benefits such as Danone’s new fig variant to its Activia probiotic yoghurt.

Danone Activia is a creamy yoghurt with real fruit which contains the unique culture Bifidus Digestivum, which is clinically proven to improve the natural digestive transit when eaten every day. The brand was relaunched in August last year with a functional positioning and has shown consistent growth since then.

This autumn will see the launch of a new sub-family, namely Activia Fibre which will come in three flavours: Kiwi Cereal, Strawberry Cereal and Cereal. It will have the same functionality but with extra fibre.

Functional does seem to be the key to this market at the moment, as is health, but in the widest sense of the word too. Organic brand leader Yeo Valley believes, for instance, that the sector may be seeing a ‘Jamie Oliver effect’.Certainly, the growing trend for consumers to question the authenticity and quality of the food that they are eating means that even the yoghurt business - a sector seen as healthy and ‘natural’ anyway - is also under scrutiny. This is possibly why the organic dessert companies are all doing so well at the moment.

Marketing director Ben Cull believes that Yeo Valley has earned its leading position in the organic market. “The current, stronger interest in healthier products is no doubt a benefit to us, but it’s our combination of quality and value that’s had the most impact on our long-term growth.”

The company’s growing product range now includes a recently launched Greek-style yoghurt with honey, and relaunched children’s products made with new recipes giving them a thicker, creamier consistency, lower sugar level and higher fruit content.

“We felt our children’s product could do better in terms of fruit levels,” says Cull. “I also feel that more and more children are starting to ask questions about whether the food they eat is healthy,” he says. “It is not just concerned parents that we are talking to.”

Many predict that there will be less character merchandising to children in this sector in the future.

Organic products are obviously now attracting a wider consumer base, which is creating its own increased momentum. “Recent food scares have also alerted consumers to the dangers of colouring additives and made them think more carefully about the attractions of organic foods which don’t use such things,” says Cull.

Singing from the same hymn sheet is Neil Burchell, md of Rachel’s Organic, a company that launched a new range of ‘Little Rachel’s Organic’ yoghurts for toddlers earlier this year. These new fruit yoghurts have 22% fruit content and have, apparently, gone down as well with the children as with their parents.Burchell believes that the last four years have seen a dramatic change in attitude to organic products with fewer people still believing that if it is good for you, it must not taste as good.

“There is a growing awareness that organic products are good for you and that they offer minimum processing and so can taste better,” says Burchell. “We keep hearing that people want food to cost less, but there are more and more foodies who would happily pay more if the product tasted better,” he said.

“We should also remember that not everyone is on a diet, but even if they are they want a great tasting product,” he continued. Earlier this year the company launched a new probiotic fat-free Fruits of the World yoghurt multipack said to be ideal for slimmers and those on calorie controlled diets.

Made with real organic fruit pieces, these thick and fruity yoghurts come in four flavour combinations including Sri Lankan mango & lime; Italian peach & Brazilian passion fruit; Senga Sengana strawberry & Austrian elderberry and Mauritius pineapple & Italian kiwi.

In May, Danone launched Shape Solo, a diet yoghurt in single pots with its calorie content reduced by an average of 30%. “Many consumers believe that healthy products won’t taste good so we extensively researched what appearance, aroma, taste and texture people like best,” says brand manager Gemma Phillips. “We also discovered that flavours are one of the most important factors in consumer purchase decision making and applied these findings to new product development.”

Building on the success of its natural yoghurt, Dorset dairy Woodlands has introduced a range of Sheep’s Milk yoghurt with fruit to its range.Sheep’s milk yoghurt differs from cow’s milk yoghurt in that it provides 75-100% more protein as well as 35% more calcium. This new yoghurt boasts a number of functional qualities, for instance the fat found in sheep’s milk yoghurt is finer and therefore easier to digest than cow’s milk yoghurt. So, consumers who suffer with lactose intolerance and who are unable to eat regular dairy products tend to find sheep’s milk yoghurts easier to consume. The high levels of calcium and zinc naturally present in sheep’s milk yoghurt can also help to alleviate symptoms of asthma, eczema and certain skin complaints.

This latest example of functionality in dairy desserts may be a specialist, niche product, but remember that organic yoghurts were considered as small fry not so long ago. And the increased consumer interest in the provenance of their food products surely has to influence every sector. FM

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