General Mills is launching a new yogurt product for consumers who want certain health benefits from their morning meal.
YQ by Yoplait is General Mills’ answer to a number of U.S. nutrition trends from low-sugar to high-protein to lactose-sensitive diets.
It’s the packaged-food company’s most significant new yogurt product since launching its French-style Oui by Yoplait a year ago. The company hopes YQ helps continue the turnaround of its beleaguered yogurt business.
With 15 to 17 grams of protein and 1 to 9 grams of sugar per 5.3-ounce container, YQ rivals many of the nutritional claims made by Greek yogurt, which gained popularity years ago for its purported healthfulness. General Mills was late to the Greek yogurt craze, but consumer enthusiasm for Greek is waning, creating an opportunity to catch up.
“Greek is no longer growing,” Doug Martin, Yoplait’s vice president of marketing, “It’s in the second month of double-digit declines.”
The yogurt marketers at General Mills last year started noticing consumers growing restless and bypassing the Greek category, Martin said. “When you look at health trends, the obvious thing that jumps out is people looking to avoid sugar” while seeking more protein to feel full longer.
General Mills sought ways to attract those consumers, and YQ is the result. The new yogurt’s texture is smoother than Greek but thicker than regular yogurt. It’s made from “ultra filtered milk” — a type of liquid milk gaining popularity through specialty brands like Fairlife. Ultrafiltered milk is cow’s milk that has been sent through a series of filters, removing more than 99 percent of the lactose. Since lactose is a sugar that lacks sweetness, it wasn’t helping from a flavor standpoint.
This filtration process allowed General Mills to make a product that might appeal to people trying to reduce their sugar intake or those with a sensitivity to lactose.
The result, Martin hopes, is a yogurt that’s “just sweet enough” to make it taste good, but not so sweet that people are blowing their diets at the start of their day.
“Who we are going after are people interested in a healthy lifestyle,” he said. “People who have probably been on a journey of trying new things over and over again and feel the world is making it more confusing than it has to be.”
General Mills needs this product to be a success as it attempts to claw its way back to growth in the yogurt space. The Golden Valley-based company reported eight straight quarters of deepening declines in U.S. yogurt sales, the worst during two three-month periods last year when sales fell 22 percent in both.
The unit has recently shown signs of improvement, reporting modest losses in the quarters that ended last November and this February. Aiding the potential recovery is Oui yogurt, launched last June. Oui is on track to exceed $100 million in U.S. sales in the first 12 months, making it the second-most successful new yogurt product in the past five years, just behind Dannon Oikos Triple Zero, according to Nielsen data provided by the company.
“You’ve seen significant improvement in our yogurt business this year because we’ve innovated,” Jeff Harmening, General Mills’ chief executive, said at a consumer and retail conference last month.
Packaged in artisan glass jars and sold at a higher price point, Oui targets consumers looking for a more indulgent experience, while YQ is all about function. “[Oui] is more about the pleasure of the simple taste,” Martin said. “[YQ] is for those looking for some specific health benefits.”
General Mills started production last week and expects the product — which also comes in 26-ounce tubs — to appear on store shelves in the next two weeks.