Yogurts and chilled desserts are firm family favourites, yet independents have been slow to recognise their potential.

Yogurts are a great anytime line - for breakfast or for a snack, and then there are pot desserts for dessert! Their convenience fits perfectly into the c-store mix, however it seems c-store retailers are under-trading in this category.

Müller Dairy says c-stores currently account for a relatively small proportion of total chilled yogurt and pot desserts (CYPD) sales - about 8.4% (Nielsen) - largely due to an under-estimation of the importance of this category to their business.

The company highlights the fact that some 96% of British households buy CYPDs (Kantar Worldpanel), but almost half of independent impulse stores (43%) stock no yogurts at all (Nielsen).

Müller Dairy category controller Stephanie Green says: “Consumer demand for different styles of yogurts is growing as people are looking for healthier breakfast, lunchtime and even snacking options, and manufacturers are developing yogurt products and packaging suited to these different occasions.

“Convenience retailers need to respond by offering a range of healthy, functional, everyday yogurts as well as treat-style yogurts and desserts, yet we find a significant proportion of independent convenience retailers won’t stock chilled yogurts or chilled pot desserts because of their concerns over waste.”

She says they also find that a lot of independent stores who do stock CYPD products underestimate the demand for them and therefore often run out of stock.

The company says it’s not uncommon for ‘best in class’ symbol groups and multiple convenience stores to be selling up to 330 pots of yogurts and desserts a week, whereas those stores which don’t follow supplier advice average just 30-40 per week. “This illustrates that there’s a huge opportunity for independent retailers to increase their sales ten-fold, generating incremental sales of as much as £9,000 a year,” says Green.

As for the market, total CYPD sales have increased by 2.4% in the past 12 months to reach £2.2bn a year (Nielsen).

Green says total adult yogurt sales have increased by 2.8% in value over the past year with a continued strong performance from Müller Corner - the biggest selling yogurt brand in convenience stores - which has increased total GB sales by 3.9% (Nielsen).

Müller marketing director Lee Rolston comments: “Müller Corner’s performance has been buoyed by the success of the Greek-style yogurts launched last year and the reinvigoration of Breakfast Corner Yogurts (formerly Bio Yogurt Corner). We’re particularly pleased with the incremental sales generated by Greek Style Yogurt Corner. Within 20 weeks of launch 3.2 million households in Britain had bought a Greek Style Yogurt Corner, and it is achieving the best repeat purchase levels of any new yogurt brand launched in the past two years (Kantar Worldpanel).”

New blue livery was introduced on all of the Corner, Müllerlight and Müller Rice brands’ single pots, multipacks and trays in the summer, to provide a more consistent look across the range.

A further boost for the Müller products comes from the new £20m ‘Wünderful Stuff’ campaign. Running on TV, in cinema, online and in social media, on outdoor poster sites and in newspapers and magazines, the ads feature Yogi Bear, Muttley, Kitt of Knight Rider and a host of Mr Men characters.

Over the course of the initial nine-week burst, 94% of consumers are expected to see the TV advertising campaign about eight times, with further awareness being driven via cinema, print, online and outdoor media.

Pot dessert sales have fared particularly well within the market, with value increasing by 8.2% (Nielsen), while functional yogurt drinks, which account for just under 10% of CYPD sales, have found the going tough in the past 12 months and have shown a decline of -7.9%. Sales in the remaining sector - children’s yogurt, which accounts for 12% of CYPD sales - have dipped 1.2%.

Sticking with kids’ lines, and Jon Rodriguez, business manager at Yoplait, says the Wildlife Fromage Frais six-pack is a must-stock for convenience retailers because of its proven success in the sector. “The product enjoyed total market sales of more than £1.5m in the 52 weeks to September 3 (IRI data), with sales of £483,000 through c-stores. With packs flashed at £1, this really is the perfect everyday low-price product for c-stores.”

He adds that it’s a highly recognisable brand because it is stocked in all the major multiples, plus the brand has a 72% repeat purchase rate.

This month, Wildlife Fromage Frais is being relaunched with added vitamin D and increased calcium it also has a pack redesign for better shelf standout.

Rodriguez says c-store retailers should stock Wildlife Choobs - also pricemarked at £1 - alongside the fromage frais.

He adds: “The benefit of these lines to the c-store retailer is that they can compete like-for-like on price with the multiple grocers all year round. The only problem we have is getting the message across to the independent trade that these lines are available 365 days of the year. The trade thinks they are promoted lines and only available when we advertise.”

The latest addition to the Wildlife range is Jungle Beans - peach or strawberry flavoured yogurt with chocolate beans on top.

Rodriguez says the product is extending the brand’s appeal to older kids. It is already selling well in c-stores. IRI data shows that 132,000 units shifted through c-stores within 12 weeks of launch.

Yoplait is also the company behind Petits Filous Frubes, a brand that receives year-round media support. There are also regular pack design changes to keep the product fresh and fun. Recent editions include Halloween designs and Kung Fu Panda.

For adults, a brand to consider is WeightWatchers (WW). According to IRI data, WW yogurt sales are growing by 13% in c-stores, while WW fromage frais sales growth is not far behind at 11%. Summer fruit is the number one WW variety, with £1.4m-worth of sales through c-stores. The WW brand is supported by a £28m media spend.

Another must-stock, according to Laura Graham, marketing manager at Emmi UK, is Onken as it offers a wide range of Big Pot fruit yogurts including fat free and wholegrain as well as the UK’s favourite branded natural yogurt - Onken natural set 500g (Symphony IRI data).

She says Onken ‘loyalists’ buy it because of its wide range of 18 fruit flavours and its mild, thick and creamy taste. “They buy Onken to eat on its own, in the morning and in the evening. They are more likely to buy Fat Free and Wholegrain varieties and also buy small pot yogurts as well as Onken.”

Graham recommends that retailers ensure adequate chiller space is given to growing sectors within yogurt to maximise sales potential. Fruit Big Pot is the fastest growing sector within total yogurts, growing at 25% year on year (Symphony IRI data).

“Availability is always key so ensure adequate stock of the best-selling Big Pots yogurts at all times. Support price promotions with pos material such as shelf talkers to ensure visibility and generate greater uplift.”

She continues: “Onken mango, papaya & passionfruit 450g is the best-selling fruit Big Pot yogurt within the convenience and impulse channel, while Onken natural set 500g is the number one natural Big Pot product. These two products are also the Big Pot top sellers within the major multiples. (Symphony IRI 52 weeks ending September 3, 2011).”

Finally, Helen Marriott, category strategy manager at Danone, has a word of warning about promotions. She says retailers risk alienating certain shoppers if a product they need isn’t listed because it’s been removed to provide space for special deals. “To maximise sales, convenience retailers should focus on a strong core range that offers breadth of brands which cater for all occasions and are stocked all year round. Promotions should be used secondarily without compromising the core range, to drive sales by offering both a good deal and something beyond what is normally stocked.” ■