General Mills taps into trends with new low-sugar, high-protein YQ yogurt
- General Mills has introduced YQ by Yoplait, a new yogurt variety that is high in protein and less sweet than other brands, the company announced. The YQ plain variety has just one gram of sugar per 5.3-oz. serving and 17 grams of protein. The flavored varieties, including coconut, peach, mango, lime, strawberry, blueberry and vanilla, deliver 9 grams of sugar — 40% less than the leading Greek low-fat yogurt – and 15 grams of protein.
- The new yogurt variety is made with ultra-filtered milk, which is milk that has been filtered to concentrate the protein while removing much of the milk's sugar, or lactose. The filtered milk is then combined with active cultures and put through a special churning technique used by Yoplait in France.
- "We talked to thousands of people to really understand what they were missing from the yogurt aisle. We heard loud and clear the need for a smart snack option – something made with simple ingredients, less sugar and higher protein," said Doug Martin, vice president of marketing for Yoplait USA, in a statement.
General Mills could be tapping into a new yogurt style at just the right time. YQ carries the protein of many Greek yogurts, or about twice that of most traditional varieties, while containing nearly half the sugar of other products. In addition to containing the right ingredients, the new yogurt comes in a gray container, which should make it stand out in the yogurt case. It also comes with a bold, simple package design that appeals to today’s shoppers.
The new yogurt comes after the food giant scored a win with the introduction last year of Oui by Yoplait, a French-style product sold in glass jars and made with whole milk, pure cane sugar and real pieces of fruit. General Mills said it is one of its best-performing new product launches in the past few years. Still, the company saw an 8% dip in yogurt sales in the first quarter, so it will be interesting to see if YQ is enough to stem the slide.
One potential sticking point with the new YQ could be the price. A single 5.3-ounce serving costs $1.49, compared with about a $1 per serving for may Greek yogurt varieties. It's possible the high price could deter some shoppers.
General Mills likely is looking for a product that could topple Chobani, which burst on to the seen about a decade ago, replacing Yoplait as the top-selling yogurt in 2016. Much of Chobani's success comes from the U.S. consumer's interest in low-sugar, high-protein yogurt applications, and YQ seems poised to offer competition – provided consumers like the taste and consistency of the product. Yogurt makes up a major portion of General Mills' sales, so it has a vested interest in reviving the segment within the company.
Despite General Mills’ struggles in the yogurt aisle, overall sales in the category are poised for growth. In a recent report, Packaged Facts estimated the U.S. yogurt industry is worth about $9 billion, and sales are expected to grow at a steady rate through 2022. Consumer interest in the product's perceived health benefits, flavor and innovation, as well as yogurt's appeal as a convenient snack or meal replacement, are behind the upswing.
Packaged Facts further predicts yogurt drinks will continue to grow in popularity, and that there are opportunities in growth niches such as plant-based and vegan non-dairy yogurt, highlighted by Danone's acquisition of Silk almond milk parent WhiteWave last year.
If YQ is the innovative, tasty product General Mills says it is, the yogurt could be what the company needs to regain its footing in the ultra-competitive space. Today’s shoppers, however, are willing to try new things once and then move on if they don't like it or find something better, so only time will tell if YQ has staying power as consumers continue to search for the perfect yogurt.