Kid-friendly, mom-approved

Kid-friendly, mom-approved

Cook, Julie


* Yogurt processors aren’t kidding when it comes to courting the younger set.

From Britney Spears CDs and Backstreet Boys dolls to Harry Potter books and Nintendo games, there’s no doubt about it – the purchasing power of kids rings out loud and clear at cash registers across the nation. Recognizing the billions of dollars spent either directly or indirectly by youngsters each year, marketers have placed special emphasis on products that will entice kids and their parents to loosen the purse strings.

Entertainment and fashion may be the first two categories that come to mind when it comes to kids’ spending habits, but food and beverages occupy treasured places in their hearts and minds as well. And rapidly taking its place alongside such long-time favorites as soft drinks, candy bars and potato chips is yogurt.

According to data from Chicago– based Information Resources Inc., refrigerated yogurt sales rose 8.1 percent in dollars and 3.5 percent in units during the 52-week period ending October 7, 2001. Where most processors are concerned, there’s one particular segment of the category that’s responsible for the bulk of that growth.

“If you look at Go-Gurt and the drinkable yogurts and our Spoonz ‘n Yogurt product, all of those are aimed at kids, and those are showing the biggest growth,” says Brad Cuthbert, senior product manager for specialty dairy products, Marigold Foods LLC, Minneapolis, Minn. “Pull those out and the rest of the category is doing a little better than the rest of cultured, but not fantastic.”

Tube-style yogurts are faring especially well, notes Cuthbert, racking up an impressive 25 percent sales increase over the previous year. Unlike many of the junk foods kids have favored over the years, yogurt products have one decided advantage in that parents appreciate the opportunity to feed their children a healthy snack. At the same time, kids love the fun packages, bold flavors and wacky mascots.

“The products themselves are, by definition, healthy, so you don’t have to make a trade-off between having a really healthy product and great taste. You can have your cake and eat it too,” says John Haugen, vice president, marketing, Yoplait USA, Minneapolis.

“If you can have a kid eating yogurt, as opposed to a cookie, they’re better off for it,” adds Dave Holdsworth, vice president of sales and marketing, Old Home Foods, St. Paul, Minn.

Stick -Em Up!

Following Yoplait’s success with its Go-Gurt product, Marigold jumped on the “tube yogurts” bandwagon this past June with the introduction of Kemps Yo-Stix, a line of creamy fruit yogurts in a portable stick pack. Like Go-Gurt, Yo– Stix can be eaten straight out of the refrigerator or frozen for packing in a lunch box or enjoying as a frosty treat.

“We watched how well Yoplait did with their tube product, but we also took our time to formulate what we think is a really nice product formulation in terms of its refrigerated consistency, and also that it would freeze well – not too hard, but soft enough to eat as a frozen dessert,” explains Cuthbert.

Marigold also set out to develop flavors that would be readily embraced in its upper midwestern markets. As a result, one SKU is dedicated solely to eight tubes of Strawberry, the flavor that tested the strongest with kids and moms alike. The other two SKUs consist of four sticks each of Strawberry and Blueberry and four sticks of Cherry along with four sticks of Strawberry-Banana.

Cuthbert says the inclusion of Cherry was a conscious decision to offer a flavor that Marigold felt would be more kid-friendly than Yoplait’s Watermelon Meltdown flavor.

Although Go-Gurt sales fell 3.4 percent in dollars and 6.4 percent in units this past year, Haugen remains enthusiastic about the product line, which he calls a phenomenal success that “gave portability and great-tasting yogurt on– the-go” to kids. In particular, he says the swirled Go-Gurt flavors have given children something that previous generations never had the opportunity to enjoy.

“When I was a kid, I rarely got to eat banana splits and root beer floats, much less get them in a yogurt tube,” says Haugen. “Being able to bring innovations like that to the category has continued to help propel our growth.”

Bridging the Generation Gap

Playing on kids’ quest for fun resulted in Kemps’ Spoonz ‘n Yogurt, which eliminates the need for silverware through the inclusion of little edible cookie spoons. The line “exploded onto the scene” in March of 2001 in two flavors – Strawberry and Raspberry. This January, a Strawberry– Banana variety joins the line-up.

“Kids not only like the flavor of the cookies, but the idea of playing with your food and being able to eat the dishes, as the old song goes, is a neat thing,” says Cuthbert. “It also appeals to mothers because you don’t have to pack a spoon for it and then wonder if it’s going to come back.”

Meanwhile, The Dannon Co., Tarrytown, N.Y, continues focusing on its Sprinkl’ins brand of “interactive” low– fat yogurt. Each kid-sized cup comes with two surprise toppings – Mystery Mixins and Color Changing Crystals. In recent months, Dannon has unveiled new toppings, colors, packaging and flavors, as well as special Halloween– themed varieties of the product.

“Sprinkl’ins is the brand that we feel we can really push to the limit in terms of making it a kids’ gotta-have brand,” says Eric Leventhal, vice president of marketing. “The kids perceive it to be fun and almost candy-like, but the truth is that they are actually eating yogurt, which moms know is good for them.”

Leventhal also points to drinkable yogurts and, in particular, the Danimals Drinkables line, as being one of the driving factors behind the company’s recent growth spurt. Indeed, several companies are reporting success with their own drinkable yogurts, whether it be Old Home Shakers low-fat, kid-oriented yogurt shakes; Dannon’s Frusion fruit and yogurt smoothies or Marigold/Kemps Yo-J blend of fruit juice and yogurt.

“People are kind of feeling it out right now,” says Holdsworth. “Over the next one to three years, I think we are going to see definitive products that are really going to start taking off and growing the category.”

Although drinkable yogurts have all-family appeal, most processors report that they are typically purchased for the children of the household, then frequently consumed by one or more adults as well. While it may seem that grown-ups have been forgotten when it comes to yogurt R&D, that’s not the case at all. In recent months, a variety of adult-oriented products have made their debuts in coolers from coast to coast.

Dannon recently completed the national rollout of la Creme, a line of rich and creamy, yet mild and subtle yogurts, sold in four-packs of 4-ounce cups. Meanwhile, Old Home introduced Velvet Delight, a full-fat cup yogurt available in Orange Cream, Peach, Lemon, Raspberry, Strawberry and Apple Pie varieties. Category leader Yoplait isn’t about to be left out in the cold either. This January, Yoplait Whips! joins the company’s line-up of cup yogurts. The product boasts a mousselike texture and six unique flavors– Strawberry Mist, Cherry Chiffon, Key Lime Pie, Orange Creme, Peaches ‘n Cream and Raspberry Mousse.

Although such flavors sound like they were created solely for grownups, processors aren’t shy about admitting that many of today’s new products are being developed with one eye on the up-and-coming generation of consumers, who they hope will make a smooth transition to more adult-oriented yogurts.

“We’ve got to come up with products that kids will want to graduate to when they step out of the tube yogurts or the fairly sweet profile of the current drinkable yogurts,” says Cuthbert. “Right now, they are used to being targeted and having products that really suit their tastes. The number one challenge is to make interesting products to keep them in the category and even grow their consumption as they get older.” df

Julie Cook is a freelance journalist based in the Chicagoland area.

Copyright Stagnito Publishing Jan 2002

Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning Company. All rights Reserved