PepsiCo and Unternehmensgruppe Theo Müller today (9 July) insisted there is an “opportunity” for the companies’ new venture in the competitive US yoghurt sector as they unveiled the products they will sell to  battle against the likes of Danone and Chobani.

The companies, which formed a joint venture to produce yoghurt for the US market in February, will be launching Muller Corner, Muller Greek Corner and Muller FrutUp later this month.

US yoghurt sales are on the up and the companies insisted there is further scope to grow the category, which still has relatively low penetration compared to more developed European markets.

“We see a good opportunity to expand in the US,” a spokespeson for Muller confirmed. “It is a market that we have been studying for some time and we see that the joint venture with PepsiCo is the best way for us to enter the sector and grow our business.”

According to information from Mintel, US spoonable yoghurt sales increased to $5.7bn in 2011, up from $4.5bn in 2008 and are expected to grow to a value of $9bn by 2016. This expansion is being driven by a larger number of households buying yoghurt, with the number of households purchasing yoghurt rising from 94m to 99m.

The category is also being driven by an increased spend on yoghurt from those that already make the purchase – dollars spent on yoghurt per buyer has increased from $49 to $60 per year, PepsiCo revealed.

The JV, dubbed Muller Quaker Dairy, will benefit from Muller’s know-how and expertise in the dairy category, coupled with PepsiCo’s customer relationships, consumer insight and distribution infrastructure. PepsiCo already has a significant chilled distribution base for its Tropicana orange juice brand.

However, the venture will face fierce competition from the likes of Danone, General Mills and Greek yoghurt specialist Chobani, which leads a sub-category that is driving the growth of the whole sector.

Pepsi and Muller emphasised they will offer “innovative premium yoghurt products that have never before been available to US consumers”.

The spokesperson said they are “bringing something that is different and unique” to the category and, in this way, the companies hope to drive growth in the sector.

Growth will also be supported by an “extensive” marketing campaign. “There are going to be marketing TV and print ads, free sampling, online engagement and PR obviously. We are touching all communication points,” a PepsiCo spokesperson said.