Healthy eating trends - and consumer desire for foods that do more than just fulfil hunger - are helping to drive growth in the yogurt category, which is worth £89.8m and achieving year-on-year growth of 2%, according to IRI data.
Not only that - when and where consumers tuck into yogurts has broadened, says Müller UK marketing and R&D director Chris McDonough, and while lunch, tea, and evening meal times remain the key occasions for yogurt consumption, they are increasingly being eaten at breakfast and as a snack.
"Two decades ago, yogurt was by and large consumed solely as a dessert, but today, with all the variety of different styles of yogurt available, they play a much bigger role in consumers' diets. Yogurt always gets a big tick from consumers in terms of being perceived as intrinsically healthy, tasty and convenient, so it very much fits the bill in terms of consumers wanting to eat more healthily."
Different types of yogurt meet different consumer needs and the category has moved on to comprise everything from natural and everyday yogurts to indulgent and functional. It's these functional - or 'active health' - yogurts that are showing the strongest growth of 35.7%, while diet
- or 'everyday health' - yogurts are declining by 16.5%, according to IRI.
Phil White, trading controller at Danone, which manufactures the Activia, Actimel and Shape brands, says that health-conscious consumers are swapping diet yogurts for products offering more than just a lighter option. "The diet market is disappearing fast, and the functional side is taking over," he says.
Activia and Actimel are worth £130m and £100m respectively in the total market, taking the number two and number three spots, but have yet to make the same impact in the convenience store sector - something Danone is addressing right now. "Activia is absolutely flying - it's a real star for us - but c-stores are an untapped opportunity," says White. "The brand is up 45% on the year to date, so the challenge for us is to get the message across to convenience retailers about how big the brand is. We're currently giving every Londis and Budgens store a free case of Actimel and a free case of Activia, so we're putting our money where our mouth is. We did the same with Nisa last year, and have taken a different approach with Spar by distributing free point-of-sale material."
Activia comes in three variants - fruit, fruit on the bottom, and zero percent fat - and White say retailers should stock the strawberry fruit flavour, prune fruit on the bottom, and zero percent fat in peach. Four-packs of strawberry-flavour Actimel is the must-stock fruit flavour, along with original flavour in the zero percent fat variant, but White adds that blueberry is proving to be another big seller.
"Coming from the outside is blueberry," he says. "It emerged from nowhere as the mega fruit to have. We launched blueberry in May last year and it's really flown."
Marketing support behind the two brands amounts to £15m each, and to boost appeal in the convenience sector, White reveals that Danone is in the process of investigating convenience friendly formats of the Activia and Actimel brands.
In light of the changes in attitudes towards dieting, Müller has reappraised the positioning of Müllerlight, and in January embarked on a £4.4m relaunch.
In the last 12-week period, Müllerlight sales increased by 9.4% and in the latest four weeks sales are up by 13.7% (IRI). A TV campaign for the fat-free brand runs until November.
While healthy eating is proving to be a huge driver in the yogurt category, shoppers are also showing a fondness for luxury products, with the premium end of the market showing growth of about 9% (IRI). Dr Oetker head of marketing Matthew Wilson says: "The growth of luxurious brands such as Onken has emerged as manufacturers focus on the evening purchaser - cash-rich, time-poor consumers who seek out premium products as a treat at the end of the day rather than an everyday brand."
Dr Oetker's Onken premium Fruit Biopot range is growing by 55.3% year on year in the convenience sector, and its mango, papaya & passion fruit Biopot has grown by 217%, according to IRI. The company is supporting Onken this year with a £1.5m TV ad campaign.
'Middle ground' everyday yogurts account for almost half of sales and brand leader Müller Corner grew by 4.1% over the past 12 months, with Müller Crunch Corner achieving a 44.4% uplift (IRI). Müller is continuing the momentum behind Müller Corner with a £7.5m marketing spend during 2008. A four-month TV campaign ends in June.
Innovations such as Müller One a Day have also had a positive impact on development of the category. When it was launched last summer, it was the only yogurt and yogurt drink offering one of the recommended 5-a-day portions of fruit.
Müller is supporting One a Day with a £2.2m spend in 2008, including a TV and poster advertising campaign, sampling activity and new designs for the yogurt four-pack sleeves, which have been revised to emphasise the key message that yogurt contains one fruit portion.
The One a Day stable also includes smoothie yogurt drinks in two different flavours. McDonough says: "Just under a third of households are currently buying smoothies so if we can bring smoothies to a wider audience then that will further open up the sales opportunity."
This aim was behind the strategy to launch Müller One a Day yogurt drink last June. Müller recommends siting it within the dairy drinks and flavoured milks section of the chiller, with secondary sitings in the sandwich/front of store fixtures wherever possible.
Yop maintains its position at the forefront of the regular drinking yogurt sector and is currently growing at a rate of 17.3%. Capitalising on the trend for healthy eating, each bottle communicates Yop's high calcium content. The brand's growth is being driven by mums purchasing the 750g variant, which is generally consumed at home, with the 330g bottles and Yop Minis (4x180g) focused on the convenience market.
Having been the fastest growing sector in 2006, growth in the children's arena has eased up in the past year. McDonough believes promotional activity has stripped some of the value. "This sector is price sensitive and a significant volume of product is sold on promotion. Although volume increased by 5.3%, value grew by just 2.2%."
The company's Little Stars range is showing more promising growth, though. Little Stars smooth yogurt sales alone have grown by 37.7% over the past year, and Little Stars Fromage Frais sales are up by 18.3%. The range includes fromage frais, smooth yogurts, fruit juice jellies and the latest addition, High Fruit Smoothies, which were launched last month. During 2008 Müller will be supporting Little Stars with a £6m marketing programme including TV and consumer press advertising, new packaging and new lines.
In February Yoplait's Petits Filous brand, which leads the children's yogurt sector, launched an initiative which it claims could grow the chilled yogurt and desserts children's sector by 20%. The 'Calcium Every Day - The Easy Way' initiative is being supported by a £6m marketing campaign and aims to build public awareness of healthy eating for strong bones by encouraging children to have three portions of dairy a day. All Petits Filous products feature the 3-a-day logo.
Yoplait's on-the-move product Frubes is making good use of limited-edition licensed products to drive sales, and its Dr Who promotion delivered 32% incremental growth to the category in multiples, according to IRI. The Dr Who pack has been relaunched this year and themed packaging incorporates games, door hangers and 24 different Dr Who characters on the Frubes tubes, as well as one of six collectable bookmarks. The Dr Who limited edition will be supported with a TV ad which breaks on June 9.
The soya category continues to grow at 9% year on year by value, and Alpro Soya dominates the category with a 65.5% value share, according to Nielsen. Much of Alpro's success has come from its range of soya yogurts, which increased by £1.7m in value last year.
Alpro Soya commercial director John Allaway says: "Our soya yogurts have proven to be good entry products to the soya category and we know that if we can get people to buy Alpro yogurts twice, we will convert them - 75% of our buyers who purchase twice go on to buy again. This is why we are continuing to invest heavily in the yogurts market."
Alpro Soya launched a range of low-calorie yogurts this year and a dairy- free probiotic last year. It is supporting the brand with a nationwide TV and press advertising campaign, as well as direct marketing, sampling and PR.
Meet the supplier
Supplier: Dairy Crest
Background: Dairy Crest began life as the milk processing operation of the Milk Marketing Board, the public body set up in 1933 to control the production and distribution of milk in the UK. Today it supplies products right across the dairy category, including Country Life butter, Petits Filous, Clover, Frijj, Utterly Butterly and Cathedral City.
In 1991 it created a joint venture company with the French firm Yoplait SA, called Yoplait Dairy Crest, establishing exclusive distribution rights in the UK for Yoplait's branded dairy products. Cathedral City came with the acquisition of cheese company Mendip Foods in 1995, and the St Ivel Cream brand when it acquired the dairy and cheese businesses of Unigate in 2000. Utterly Butterly, St Ivel Gold, Vitalite and the UK licence for the Carapelli brand came with the purchase of St Ivel's spreads business in 2002.
Recent launches: Utterly Butterly Omega 3, Cathedral City Lighter, and TV campaigns for Clover and Country Life.
Distribution: Nationwide distribution through multiples, wholesalers and independent retailers.
Top 10 yogurt/yogurt drink brands
1. Müller Corner £20.7m
2. Müllerlight £12.4m
3. Yeo Valley Organic Yogurt £7m
4. Petits Filous (including Frubes) £6.5m
5. Activia £6.4m
6. Actimel £5m
7. Onken £4.7m
8. Amore £3.6m
9. Yop yogurt drink £3.1m
10. Yoplait Wildlife (inc Choobs) £2.8m
Source: IRI value sales data, MAT to March 22, 2008, convenience stores
UK courgettes are available from June to October, with varieties from Holland between May and November, Italy from December to April, and Spain in November to May.
The most common type is with a mottled dark green skin. They are straight or slightly curved and usually five to eight inches in length, and are in the summer squashes category.
The yellow variety is similar in shape and size to green, but have a yellow skin with green neck where they have been attached to the parent plant. They also have firmer flesh than green types.
Courgettes should feel firm and dry with a glossy skin. They should not feel soft, particularly at the ends, and shouldn't be limp and flexible.
They have a very short shelf life and should not be allowed to chill or they will blacken and rot, so store and display ambient.
Courgettes should be handled with care because they can easily be bruised by overfilling displays or damaged by fingernails.