In the last couple years, Mintel's GNPD (Global New Products Database) has found that yoghurt NPD has resulted in both new forms of yoghurt products, and the use of new types of ingredients. Yoghurts have come in packaging other than cups, and in unique flavours and formulations, including the addition of functional ingredients. Products for children also have made a strong showing.

Dairy products, in general, have slowed in numbers in the last several years. There were 1259 new yoghurt launches last year, which compares to a total of 2821 dessert and ice cream launches.

Many identities

As expected, Europe is home to most of the new yoghurt products, making up about 72% of all introductions in the last two-and-a-half years. The strongest yoghurt-eating countries in Europe include Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and the UK. However, the types of yoghurt available and their positioning vary substantially from country to country.

In France, for example, more yoghurts tend to be focused within the fruit flavours segment, rather than other sweeter flavours (such as chocolate or caramel), whereas Italy appears to have more products aimed at children, as does the UK. Germany is the bastion of healthy yoghurts, while quark- and soy-based formulas appear more frequently in the mature Finnish market.

Depending on the country, yoghurt is alternatively a special treat, a product for kids, a spoonable product, a drinkable snack, or the ultimate health food. Although we do see a fair amount of similarity in products from country to country (virtually all have the usual range of fruit flavours, for example), different parts of the world look on yoghurt in very different ways.

Functional friends

Although most prevalent in Europe and Japan, yoghurts with functional ingredients are beginning to appear on store shelves globally. The German market, in particular, offers a wide variety of yoghurts with functional benefits. Most of these are probiotic or prebiotic. A typical example is the Lacto Pro+ line of yoghurts from N+G Frischproduktenvertriebs, which conveys clearly on its package its ingredients (oligofructose) and benefits, appearing rather more like a medicine than a food. Available since 1998, flavours include, vanilla, blueberry, peach & maracuja, strawberry and cherry.  During 2001, this range was extended to include a banana flavoured pro-biotic yoghurt drink, with Lactobacillus Acidophilus enzymes.

French food giant Danone has introduced its Actimel probiotic yoghurt line broadly throughout Europe, just as Swiss behemoth Nestlé has its LC1. While yoghurts in many countries, including the US, UK and France, are not labelled as probiotic or prebiotic, the implication is clear. In the US, for example, these types of yoghurts are promoted as containing "live cultures" rather than beneficial bacteria.

Added ingredients

One of the newest developments in any kind of functional food or ingredient is the addition of stanol esters to products, which are reported to help reduce cholesterol. Benecol and Take Control are the two biggest brand names in this area, although others have joined the marketplace. Benecol, which is produced by McNeil Products, appears in several countries in a yoghurt form, including under the Valio name in Scandinavia.

In the UK, high street retailer Marks & Spencer offers a very broad line of cholesterol-reducing products called & More. Fruit-flavoured yoghurt products formulated with soy protein are also included in this line.  The latest stanol ester products to appear on Mintel's GNPD include the 2002 UK launch of Benecol's apricot flavoured yoghurts.

Other types of functional ingredients include inulin and calcium enrichment. Inulin is a prebiotic that provides an added level of sweetness plus fiber. It makes an appearance in the US in Stonyfield's Fruit Blends yoghurt and YoSelf yoghurt. YoSelf also is specifically targeted at women, as it also contains added levels of calcium. That is also the case with Yoplait's Caresse +Calcium, which is sold in Canada.

Soy-based yoghurts, although promoted as containing healthful ingredients, appear on the market only in a few countries, particularly the US and Finland. In the US, where soy-based foods are most prevalent, we see Anderson-Erickson's Fat Free Yoghurt Fortified with Soy Protein. Stonyfield Farms has its own O'Soy soy-based yoghurt, which also is positioned as a healthy treat. The latest soy-based yoghurt addition to the GNPD is Raisio Roz Beneviva's soy based yoghurts in Finland, which were picked up by the GNPD in the spring of 2002.  New flavours in this range include apple & cinnamon, strawberry and exotic fruits.

Expert Analysis

The European Chilled Desserts Market (2nd edition)
Market overview and country analysis of Yoghurt, Fresh cheese desserts and Other chilled desserts for France, Italy, Germany, Benelux (NL, B), UK, Scandinavia (SF, S, DK, N), Spain 
and Other Markets(CH, A, G, P, Ire).

The Market for Gut Benefit Foods - A Global Analysis
150 pages, 60 tables and 28 colour product shots covering the global functional foods market. Tthis global analysis on the market for gut benefit foods provides insight into the commercial, societal and technical drivers shaping its development.

 

Drinkable yoghurts

More than ever before, consumers are seeing yoghurt in more liquid, drinkable forms. One of the first drinkable yoghurts on the market in the US, for example, came from Marigold Foods. Kemps Yo-J was introduced in the early 1990s, and sold in half-gallon cartons. Designed as a breakfast drink, it had limited success. Now, however, drinkable yoghurts are sold almost exclusively in single-serve bottles and positioned as a drink on the go. One of the latest ones in the US is from Dannon, the US subsidiary of the French group Danone; Dannon Fruison is a single serve yoghurt-based drink that is positioned as a "smoothie."

Although these types of drinks are slowly creeping into the US, they've been a hard sell. In Mexico, however, the number of drinkable yoghurts is on the rise. Introductions are plentiful from the likes of Danone, with its Actimel brand, and Nestlé Mexico, which has the Nestlé LC1 brand of Fermented Milk Beverages. The Yoplait brand, which has gone so far as to introduce single-serve yoghurt treats (non-beverage) in the US with its Go-Gurt line, has a Yopli line in Mexico. The chilled beverage comes in a contoured plastic bottle sized for small hands, and represents the positioning of this new market, which is mainly aimed at children.

Outside the US, drinking yoghurts are more popular, and appear in most countries. For the most part, they are in smaller sizes (100-150g), and usually contain fruit or fruit pieces, also hoping to capture a share of the sales for children's food. Pester power, as any producer knows, is a growing and powerful market force. Capturing the imagination and loyalty of such consumers early on may be another means for manufacturers to guarantee the further growth of the global yoghurt market as it continues to move forward.

By Amanda White, Mintel