Interview

Yoplait: Narrative around children’s yoghurt must change

By William Dodds

- Last updated on GMT

Yoplait owns a number of children's yoghurt brands including Petits Filous and Frubes. Credit: Yoplait
Yoplait owns a number of children's yoghurt brands including Petits Filous and Frubes. Credit: Yoplait

Related tags Regulation

More than 1m children in the UK are at risk of their development being impacted because they lack nutrients such as calcium and vitamin D, according to a new report from kids’ yoghurt manufacturer Yoplait.

The study, which was commissioned by Yoplait and written by dietician Dr Carrie Ruxton, aims to raise awareness of the value of dairy-based yoghurt in supporting the growth and health of young children.

According to Public Health England research from 2020, calcium intakes in children have fallen significantly since 2010, while just under 20% of four to 10 years olds are clinically deficient in vitamin D. Meanwhile, the report shows that this has coincided with a prolonged decline in the kids’ yoghurt category.

Yoplait’s range of products, which includes Petits Filous and Frubes, contain vitamin D, calcium and iodine, but the manufacturer is concerned about the number of parents and guardians that are eschewing yoghurt and instead feeding their children snacks such as biscuits, sweets and chocolate.

Owned by French dairy cooperative Sodiaal, Yoplait management believes that such a shift has been caused by a lack of education around the benefits of kids’ yoghurt and insufficient efforts by the Government to inform the public about the drawbacks of alternative high-sugar options.

The report marks the start of Yoplait's campaign to raise awareness about the nutritional value of kids’ yoghurt, while also highlighting a potential £150m sales opportunity for retailers over the next five years. Yoplait is supporting the report with advertising, social and digital campaigns and in-store activations, and hopes to alter how yoghurt is perceived in comparison with other kids’ snack options.

‘Lack of awareness around the benefits of kids’ yoghurt’

To coincide with the report’s release, Food Manufacture sat down with Yoplait UK head of marketing Eva Moxham and sales director Matt Thom, who laid out the rationale behind the research and discussed the role of kids’ yoghurt in a balanced diet.

There is decreasing awareness around the benefits of dairy and yoghurts, which is contributing to children having deficiencies in key nutrients​,” Thom said.

Children need vitamin D and calcium in much greater quantities than adults because they are growing and these nutrients are particularly important for bone health and strength.”

The data has shown that the demand for kids’ yoghurt is in decline, and Moxham believes there are several different factors at play contributing to this trend.

Most families still buy yoghurt but over time it is starting to be consumed less frequently and on fewer occasions​,” she explained.

Firstly, this is because there is a lack of awareness of the benefits of kids’ yoghurts and the differences between kids and adult yoghurts. Secondly, yoghurt has been caught up in the discourse around sugar along with biscuits and chocolate, despite the fact that nutritionally it is much more beneficial.

“And finally, kids are so driven by taste and therefore will tend to choose confectionery over something that is good for them​.”

‘HFSS restrictions not having enough impact’

With these factors in mind, Yoplait commissioned the report to shed light on the challenges facing the category and outline potential solutions. As a leader in the UK kids’ yoghurt category, Thom said that Yoplait has a responsibility to appeal to policy makers and put the trends identified in the report on the agenda.

We want to see policy makers acknowledge the goodness within this category and reflect the efforts that have been made to reduce sugar content, which is around 14% across the category,” ​he continued.

All of our products are fortified with vitamin D, but this never gets talked about. We want to change the narrative and make it more balanced​.”

Yoplait wants to see stricter rules surrounding the sale and marketing of confectionery products, because many manufacturers in this category have made “almost no reductions in sugar content​”.

As our products are made healthier there will be a gulf from a sweetness perspective compared to chocolate or biscuits, which could accelerate the decline of kids’ yoghurt consumption unless the Government steps in​,” Thom added.

One example of Government policy in this arena are the restrictions placed on the placement in store of products high in fat, sugar or salt (HFSS), which was introduced in October 2022, however Moxham believes this legislation does not go far enough.

Awareness of HFSS rules among regular remains pretty low and it appears to have had more of an impact on retailers and manufacturers than consumers​,” she explained.

“The behaviour that we continue to see is that people are buying more chocolate and confectionery, so its impact looks to have been pretty limited​.”

Echoing Moxham, Thom called for existing legislation to be beefed up and more pressure should be put on confectionery manufacturers to make “meaningful changes​” to the sugar content in their products.

‘Consumers want to feed their kids nutritious food’

In addition to influencing policy, Yoplait is aiming to educate consumers about the benefits of kids’ yoghurts.

Parents and guardians want to give their children nutritious, good food, but sometimes it is confusing​,” Moxham said.

There is of course room for discretionary snacks, but we want to help them better understand the balance and how they can give their children the best possible start in life.”

Given the complexity of the research and science surrounding healthy diets, Thom said it is not a surprise that consumers are unsure about how best to feed their children and feels that Yoplait can do more to promote the benefits of its products.

Vitamin D plays such an important role with calcium absorption and bone health but this is not that well-known​,” he continued.

And when a parent is deciding whether to buy a product or not, it can be difficult to convey this information. Therefore, we also want to work more closely with retailers to ensure the benefits associated with our products are clearly and accurately communicated​.”

Despite the category showing signs of decline over the past decade, Yoplait remains in a strong position. In the 52 weeks up to the end of January 2024, its sales were valued at £127m which represents a 4% year-on-year increase, while its share in the category has remained steady.

Our activation last summer around freezing Frubes proved really successful, and I think reminding parents and guardians that yoghurt is a year-round snack can have real value​,” Moxham said.

It can also be consumed throughout the day, especially at breakfast, so there is definitely real opportunity.”

Thom added: “If we can change the narrative around kids’ yoghurt, educate consumers and work with retailers more effectively, there is huge potential for the category.”

In other news, the Competition and Markets Authority has found that the acquisition of Tereos UK & Ireland by Tate & Lyle Sugars could lead to higher sugar prices​.

Related topics Dairy

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