Wander down the yogurt aisle of any superstore and there is a startling range on offer. For any consumer unsure of what they want, it could take some time to choose between the organic, low-fat, prebiotic and probiotic choices on offer.
According to Mintel, the grocery multiples account for 90% of all yogurt and yogurt drink sales, but as the market is worth more than £1bn, the 10% taken by c-stores is still a considerable sum.
Sales of yogurt and yogurt drinks have grown by more than 50% since 2001, outperforming all other dairy sectors. Growth has slowed of late, but there's still a lot of activity.
Müller is the number one yogurt brand with a 36% value share of the market. Top-seller is Müller Corner, followed by Müllerlight. The latest launch from Müllerlight is Layers - yogurt with a layer of fruit compote, in strawberry and blackcurrant & raspberry flavours. The launch of Layers brings the number of Müllerlight ranges to four. The other three are: Fruity, Smooth and Dessert Style.
Layers is supported by a heavyweight poster and press campaign including ads in the women's and slimming press.
In its Short Life Dairy Products Market Report 2007, Müller says independent retailers need to become "much more efficient with their chilled operation, aided by a need for a more efficient wholesaler and distributor network" if they want to expand their share.
The company reckons dual siting could boost sales and advises retailers to put yogurts alongside sandwiches and soft drinks in their food-to-go chillers as well as in the dairy cabinet.
At Danone, the team is very upbeat about the company's performance in the convenience sector. Trading controller for wholesale and convenience Philip White says: "Health is driving the yogurt category. Yogurts have always had a strong association with health, but Danone has taken this a stage further by adding functionality to produce active health products."
He reports that Activia probiotic yogurt is growing at a whopping 73% year on year and is now worth more than £100m. "Sales accelerated when Danone's TV advertising was changed to give women, in particular, a straightforward message about how Activia can help with digestive problems and bloating. Activia benefited from a £12m marketing spend last year and will have the same spend for 2007."
Danone's Shape brand was relaunched as Shape Lasting Satisfaction last year and is already worth £17m. The yogurts contain a special blend of fibres and proteins to make consumers feel full up. A limited-edition apple & blackcurrant flavour will be launched shortly.
Relaunch activity is strong this year, too. Lactalis Nestlé relaunched Ski in April with a new look and formulation. Called Ski with Activ8, the yogurts contain energy-releasing B vitamins. Packaging changes aim to give the product better shelf standout, with the four- and six-packs now secured in cardboard sleeves. The refreshed Ski brand also includes a new wholegrain selection with flavours such as honey & wholegrain and blueberry & wholegrain.
An £8m consumer campaign supports Ski using the theme 'Activ8 yourself'. It starts this month with a heavyweight TV campaign and sponsorship of the Heart FM breakfast show.
Rachel's Organic is another brand with new packs and products. There's a fresh look across the range and the large (450g) pots are now made using mainly biodegradable cardboard instead of plastic. Its revamped 'luscious low fat' range now includes cherry, strawberry and raspberry flavours while the wholemilk range includes raspberry, cherry, peach and strawberry.
Alpro Soya is another brand enjoying sales growth. Commercial director John Allaway comments: "Despite being up against major players, we are continuing to grow the dairy-free sector through product innovation and npd and recruiting new consumers into the category. Last year we added the first-ever dairy-free probiotic to our yogurts, reduced their sugar content and added more fruit to them."
He reckons there is still great growth potential, but is aware of 'negative taste perceptions' among some consumers, which is why there is a major marketing campaign for the Alpro brand this year that includes sampling.
Children are important consumers of yogurts - indeed kids' products were the fastest growing across the market last year. The leading kids' brand is Petits Filous, with a 19% value share. The brand was recently enhanced with the addition of vitamin D, which plays a key role in the absorption of calcium. The vitamin D message will be delivered to consumers via a £2.5m TV campaign, part of a £5m spend behind the brand over the next 12 months.
Frubes continues to be the leading portable fromage frais brand. The brand has a 9.8% share of the children's sector and is worth £24.6m. The range was recently strengthened with a Doctor Who limited-edition pack.
To support the release, Frubes is currently on air with a TV advertising campaign.
Keeping with kids, Lactalis Nestlé is investing £8m in relaunching its Munch Bunch brand. It is being repositioned as a brand with active health benefits, plus there's a new gang of Munch Bunch characters and new-look packaging.
Munch Bunch Squashums squeezable strawberry mini yogurts have been reformulated and are now said to contain 50% more calcium than leading competitors and have the added benefit of Calci+ - a functional ingredient developed by Nestlé nutritionists. It is a natural source of calcium that comes from milk and is designed for kids to help them maintain strong bones and teeth. It also contains vitamin D.
The benefits of the new ingredients are being communicated via redesigned packaging and the re-invention of the Munch Bunch characters as health educators.
Senior brand manager Lesley Watt says: "Munch Bunch is changing in response to our consumers. By adding Calci+, we are offering mums a range of products with active health ingredients that benefit their growing kids, while still appealing to children through the entertaining new characters."
While 90% of households buy into the yogurt market, only 45% buy yogurt drinks. According to Müller, it is consumer confusion about the number of products on the market and their functional benefits that hampers further growth. The company is calling for manufacturers and retailers to work together to address this.
The yogurt drinks category is dominated by Danone's Actimel probiotic active health drink, which is now worth more than £100m. A new cherry flavour launches this month. Philip White says Actimel has grown by more than 400% in value over the past five years: "The sector still has an enormous potential for growth through npd and marketing which explains real health benefits to the consumer. A low penetration of these products in convenience stores gives convenience retailers a massive opportunity. To help, Danone has introduced Actimel pricemarked packs for the sector - £1.39 for a four-pack."
Yoplait Dairy Crest marketing director Gerry Roads says Yop 750g is growing by 23.6% year on year in c-stores. In January the brand was relaunched in a bid to appeal more to teenagers and the drink was put in a modernised bottle to increase shelf standout. The new packaging also communicates the high calcium content. At the same time, a Yop Minis four-pack format was introduced to appeal to six- to 10-year-olds.
There was also a merchandising push aimed at relocating Yop with other drinking yogurts in the chilled yogurts and desserts section of stores, rather than with flavoured milks. Yop group brand manager Angelica Costantini explains: "Chilled yogurts and desserts attract twice as many consumers as fresh flavoured milks, and shoppers visit four times as often and buy twice as many products."
The UK blueberry season
kicks off next month, and as
a so-called superfood it could be in high demand.
Blueberries, also known as whortleberries or blaeberries, should be stored chilled, merchandised in their punnets and stacked no more than
Blueberries are more robust than strawberries and raspberries, but retailers should look for any signs of shrivel or excessive juice in the pack.
As a short-life product, blueberries should be checked several times during the day for signs of deterioration.
meet the supplier
Supplier: Bel UK
Background: Bel UK is part of the multi-national Bel Group, which has been producing cheese for more than a century and provides the UK and Irish markets with dedicated local sales and marketing support. Bel UK is particularly strong in the snacking and speciality cheese sectors through the success of its brands which include: The Laughing Cow; Mini Babybel; Leerdammer; Port Salut; and Cheez Dippers.
recent launches: So far, 2007 has seen the return of The Laughing Cow Squeeze, followed by the national rollout of The Laughing Cow Essential Omega 3 in March, and the launch of the Mini Babybel Emmental variety in April.
distribution: National distribution through wholesalers, multiples and independents.
Kraft Foods is relaunching its Philadelphia Snack packs - Italian breadsticks with light Philadelphia cheese - to independent retailers.
The packs have revised packaging and are pricemarked at 59p to encourage trial. Case size is 15 packs to help smaller stores.
Dave McNulty, instant consumption channel customer director for Kraft Foods, says: "Philadelphia Snack is back by popular demand. It's great for on-the-go customers who want a quick bite to eat without compromising on taste or calories.
"Our research shows that consumers want portion and calorie-controlled snacks that are conveniently packed."
Fresh! Naturally Organic is targeting the healthy food-to-go sector with a compostable-packaged sandwich and salad combo.
The new 'In Your Bikini Baby'box is targeted at weight-conscious women who want the calorie-saving benefits of a salad along with the sustenance of a sandwich.
The combo comprises an In Your Bikini Baby sandwich made with tuna and coriander pesto, avocado and mango and chilli salsa, mixed baby leaf salad leaves on three- grain bread plus an accompanying side salad.
Each pack contains less than 200 calories and just 4% fat.
As well as the combo, which retails at £2.99, Fresh! is launching an In Your Bikini sandwich that will feature the same mix of ingredients with a rrp of £2.45.
The range currently has listings in Budgens, but will rollout to the wider convenience store channel later this year.
The Big Prawn Company is extending its presence in the convenience market with a range of heat-to-eat dishes called Seafood Sensations.
The range comprises five seafood-based 150g dishes: moules mariniere; North Sea shrimps in spiced butter; scallops in garlic butter; king prawns in garlic butter; and king prawn Thai red curry.
Microwavable packs have a steam release valve to let consumers know when they are cooked - they just need to be microwaved for up to two minutes and served.
Bob Fleming, managing director of The Big Prawn Company, says: "We kept the content highly visible to allow the quality of the ingredients to speak for themselves."
The products have a minimum shelf-life of 14 days. Rrp is £1.99 to £4.29.
The Sandwich Factory has unveiled a new line of sandwiches distributed by Kerry Foods Direct to Store. The Scoff range comes in a Simply, Every Day and Posh/VIP tier system, with rrps from £1.79.
The Simply range is designed for those looking for a quick hunger fix. It includes mixed cheese & spring onion, tuna & cucumber, and egg mayonnaise & cress.
The Everyday range is aimed at consumers wanting a convenient yet filling product and includes flavours such as prawn mayonnaise; chicken & stuffing; ham, egg & tomato and BLT.
The Posh/VIP range uses specially selected, locally sourced ingredients. It includes: smoked salmon & cream cheese; limited-edition Wiltshire ham salad; king prawn & watercress; Davidstow Cheddar ploughmans; all-day breakfast; and a variety pack.