Danone claims to be the "only" yoghurt maker with the full spectrum of products in the US

Danone claims to be the "only" yoghurt maker with the full spectrum of products in the US

Danone believes it is well positioned in the competitive US yoghurt sector because it is the "only" company capable of meeting its customers' needs across Greek and traditional products, co-chief operating officer Emmanuel Faber has argued.

"We are left in a position where you have three competitors in the US: one guy who has only Greek, one guy who has everything else and us," Faber told the audience at the Consumer Analyst Group of Europe conference earlier this week. "We are the only ones that can service our customers with everything."

Faber said that Danone's launch of Oikos in response to the growth of the Greek yoghurt sector meant that the company has been able to rapidly grow share in this dynamic area.

Greek sales have expanded from 1% of total US yoghurt sales in 2007 to 44% of the market last year, with category growth initially driven by the expansion of Greek yoghurt maker Chobani.

"We turned what started as a challenge - the Greek segment - into an opportunity," Faber said.

Danone claims that it is now "joint first" in terms of market share with category innovator, and Greek specialist, Chobani. "We are head-to-head with Chobani," Faber commented.

Meanwhile, General Mills has been left in the starting blocks. The US food group is a power player in traditional yoghurt in the US through its Yoplait brand. However, the firm was slow to develop a Greek offering and, when it did, the product failed to use the traditional sieving method and was viewed as lacking quality and authenticity. Sales have been sluggish.

Faber said that Greek growth is now "plateauing", with Greek yoghurt accounting for about 50% of the total yoghurt market today.

As the category has matured, promotional activity is also slowing. "Promotion is gradually maturing to more traditional promotional levels in US dairy, about 35%."

Danone intends to leverage the competitive advantage presented by the breadth of its offering. The group is continuing to enlarge its offering in US yoghurt. Faber said this strategy was at play in group's recent acquisition of YoCrunch, the leader in the US yoghurt with toppers segment.