General Mills is joining the plant-based foods craze with the launch of its first nondairy yogurt.
The Golden Valley-based food maker on Tuesday unveiled the coconut milk product under the Oui by Yoplait brand. Like its dairy counterpart, the "Dairy Free Oui" will be packaged in the brand's signature glass pots.
U.S. yogurt has been one of the General Mills' most troubled businesses this decade. The company was far too late in developing a Greek yogurt product, which now composes roughly 45% of all U.S. yogurt sales, and spent the last several years trying to slow that segment's sales and market share hemorrhage.
The company finally stabilized its yogurt business, growing full-year market share during its latest fiscal year, ending in May, for the first time since 2015. The creation of Oui by Yoplait — a premium, French-style yogurt — and the launch and reformulation of its high-protein, low-sugar YQ by Yoplait product, were key drivers in that turnaround. Nielsen named Oui by Yoplait to its 2019 list of breakthrough innovations on Tuesday.
But now General Mills and its major competitors are facing a new challenge: declining U.S. yogurt sales.
After yogurt and yogurt drink sales peaked at nearly $9 billion in 2015, U.S. sales have been in steady decline, according to Mintel. The research firm forecasts sales will be down 3.6% in 2019 from a year-ago levels and expects them to fall another 10% to $7.4 billion by 2024.
Those trend lines have the big yogurt makers looking for the next big thing to jump-start consumer enthusiasm. Chobani and Danone recently launched plant-based yogurts, and now General Mills has joined the fray.
Oui by Yoplait's dairy-free yogurts come in four varieties — vanilla, strawberry, mango and raspberry. Currently in limited release, it should be more widely available at the start of the new year.
This summer, General Mills launched a yogurt product on the GoodBelly name, which is synonymous with probiotics, a trait desired by many health-conscious consumers for purported digestive and gut benefits.