Ewa Hudson, global head of health and wellness research for the market research firm, said the last ten years had seen little change to the marketing of probiotic yoghurts as focus fell instead on the regulatory challenges facing the market.
“The products are quite old fashioned these days – they feature working mums and the positioning is quite mumsy," she told us.
“Even for immune yoghurts, there’s nothing new.”
Strict European food law – which places a defacto ban on the term ‘probiotic’ on pack – have hurt sales of probiotic yoghurts in the EU bloc.
Euromonitor calculates the ban will have cost the probiotic yoghurt market about €2.5 billion between 2012 and 2020 in lost revenue.
Yet while a regulatory remedy was key to a market resurgence, she said product positioning could also help “save” the segment, which had been caught out by a sharp rise in popularity of competing health-positioned yoghurts like high protein and Greek yoghurt.
“Regulation is important – but positioning needs work too. Probiotics need to be seen as the product for millennials.”
What millennials want
Millennials – broadly defined as those born in the early 1980s to early 2000s – account for 30% of the global population and are therefore a key target group.
“Understanding them is crucial, as they have distinct tastes and priorities,” Hudson wrote in a new Euromonitor report.
“They are digitally savvy, personal and less brand loyal. They are less focused on conspicuous consumption, seek value for money and focus on experiences, which means no more ‘one size fits all’.”
Several probiotic players were already specifically targeting these younger consumers.
Thai dairy firm CP Meiji launched its drinkable probiotic yoghurt Paygen Pro 5 in March 2014.
The product is aimed at those aged 18-29 years, which is reflected by Meiji’s choice of brand ambassador, popular Thai model and actor Nadech Kukimiya, its new packaging, increased numbers of direct selling persons known as ‘Paygen Girls’ and expanded retail channel coverage.
“These activities have helped stimulate overall growth for the Paygen brand,” according to Euromonitor.
The product is positioned for digestive health with 0% fat, three probiotic strains and vitamins A and E.
Carine Lambert, executive director of International Probiotics Association (IPA) Europe, echoed this citing the launch of new product categories like Greek and protein yogurts as one reason for the decline in probiotic yoghurt sales.
Meanwhile there had been “no real innovations” in the health/probiotic area aside from new flavours, she told us.
Hudson said the rise of alternative health-positioned yoghurts had taken probiotic players by surpise.
“Nobody really anticipated the protein yoghurt success.”
Such NPD success had pushed probiotics from the limelight.
“People are forgetting about all the goodness of probiotics.”
Whilst it was important to preserve brand identity, consumers needed to see the value of the products on shelves.
She added Actimel appeared to have made some moves towards targeting millennials through the use of stevia and introduction of on-the-go drinking formats.
Generally though there had been “no big change in the last ten years” to probiotic marketing.
Room for improvement
Nonetheless, a 2015 Mintel report on attitudes to healthy eating showed digestive health was still one of the top reasons for eating yoghurt.
In Germany 34% said they ate yoghurt because it was healthier than other snack options, 31% because of benefits for digestive health while boosting protein intake and strengthening immune system was each backed by 10% of respondents.
Meanwhile 32% of UK yoghurt, fromage frais or yoghurt drink consumers said they would be interested in trying yoghurt with added functional benefits, according to Mintel.
Ewa Hudson and Carine Lambert will be talking next week at NutraIngredients' Probiota event in Amsterdam.
From zombie probiotics to the future of microbiome science; an EFSA exclusive to global hotspot market wraps; infants and the aged; case studies; latest research and formulations and more, Probiota 2016 is a knowledge store you probably shouldn’t miss.
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