Healthy year ahead for yoghurts

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With the traditional healthy image of yoghurts, it is no surprise that more and more products with health claims are dominating launch activity in the sector.

Of the 2,200 yoghurts launched globally in 2008, over 1,500 were positioned on a health platform of some kind.

The increasing segmentation and sophistication of the yoghurt market, yoghurts with added health benefits can now be divided into two major types. These are categorised by the Innova Database as ‘passive’ and ‘active’ health.

Products positioned on a passive health platform include low and light products, as well as natural and organic lines. Active health yoghurts, sometimes also termed functional, include those with added health benefits, such as vitamins and mineral, probiotics, prebiotics, and omega-3 fatty acids; as well as those on particular benefit platforms, such as anti-ageing, bone health, heart health and gut health products.

Yoghurts positioned on a passive health platform continue to dominate the market, reflecting the established importance of low and light lines and the growing interest in natural and organic lines.

In 2008, over 1,200 yoghurt launches recorded in the Innova Database were positioned on a passive health platform, compared with nearly 800 on an active health platform. This indicates that there are also a number of products using both positionings, reflecting the growing use of multi-benefit claims at a time of strong competitive pressure in the market.

Probiotic products dominate the active health yoghurt market in most countries, driven by the success of brands such as Danone’s Activia, which has a global turnover of over US$2 billion a year. Indeed, it has been attributed with kick-starting the US probiotic yoghurts market, which trailed Europe for many years. After just three years on the US market, the Activia brand is worth over US$400 million.

Activia has been available on the more established European market for some years, having started out in France in the 1980s under the name of Danone Bio. It has been actively developed and promoted in recent years as its new name has been brought into different markets, and it has also increased the emphasis on its functional properties in terms of its digestive benefits in speeding intestinal transit.

Activia now dominates the active health dairy market in France, and the bifidus yoghurt market in Spain, leads both the fruit yoghurt and functional yoghurt markets in Germany, and has over 80% of the active health yoghurts market in the UK, with sales of over £150 million a year.

According to Innova Market Insight’s head of research, Lu Ann Williams, “the success of Activia has boosted the active health yoghurts market as a whole and, as well as increasing product activity, the market has seen strong growth over the past few years, easily outstripping the active health drinks sector, which was previously more dynamic.

“While the passive health yoghurts sector is apparently stabilising as consumers increasingly regard low and light lines as standard in many instances, products are tending to move to an active health positioning where possible, while often also maintaining passive health benefit claims, to maximise consumer appeal.”

Closer to home

In Australia, yoghurt plays an important role in the dairy industry, being its second largest segment and accounting for around 10% of market share, while experiencing strong and consistent sales growth. According to data from RetailWorld, sales of yoghurt increased by 9.2% in 2007, year-on-year.

Sales growth can be attributed to yoghurts’ healthy image and convenience, which, in Australia, are two key consumer concerns. According to Dairy Australia, 65% of yoghurt sales are for low-fat and diet varieties. In addition, fruit and natural flavours account for 65% and 15% of yoghurts respectively.

As with the rest of the world, sales growth in Australia is also being driven by product innovation in areas such as fortification – with added omega-3, probiotics, vitamins, as well as new flavours, and packaging improvements.

In the yoghurt segment of the industry, the three top brands – Ski, from Dairy Farmers, Yoplait, from National Foods, and Nestle, account for roughly 60% of all yoghurt sales.

National Foods’ recently launched Yoplait Forme No Fat Berry Brulee Flavoured Yoghurt, which is a fat free berry brulee flavoured yoghurt in plastic tubs, with no fat and less than 1% added sugar. It is also low GI, with no artificial colours or flavours, and rich in calcium and protein, while being gluten free.

Parmalat Australia is one of the leading manufacturers of milk, UHT milk, flavoured milk, yoghurt, cream and custard in Australia. Based on supermarket data from RetailWorld for 2007, the company had a market share of 11.2% for yoghurt, and this share has been consistently increasing since 2005.

The company is working to improve its sales mix through the production of higher value-added, innovative, and functional products, such as probiotic yoghurts, as well as products that address consumer intolerances and allergies.

Parmalat Australia has recently released the Vaalia for Toddlers with Omega-3 DHA. The six flavoured yoghurts for toddlers from 12 months old, are designed to help brain and eye development, with added calcium for bones and teeth; vitamins and minerals for growth and energy; as well as live yoghurt cultures – acidophilus, bifidus and LGG; and less than 10g sugar per pot.