Yoplait, which licenses the Weight Watchers brand from Weight Watchers International, this week launched low-calorie strawberry tart, raspberry tart, lemon cheesecake and toffee-apple flavour yoghurts.
Consumers are increasingly turning to low-fat yoghurts as part of weight-control dietary regimes, carving out new opportunities in product development for food firms looking to cash in on the growing market.
Dessert recipe yoghurts are adding incremental growth to the 'Light' sector and account for over 6 per cent of all light yogurt sales, says Erin Pohe, Weight Watchers brand manager at Yoplait.
The firm is 'confident' that the new product will help boost the sector and the Weight Watchers brand, currently worth £54m (€81million) in the UK.
Weight Watchers chilled yoghurts and desserts is the number two 'light' range with 17.2 per cent value share of the £217m category, claims the firm.
"The brand is growing ahead of the market with 10.5 per cent year-on-year value growth," add Pohe.
Recent science is also boosting the case for low-fat foods. In March this year a study claimed that adding low-fat yoghurt to a low-calorie diet had a marked effect on weight loss.
Published in the April issue of the International Journal of Obesity (vol 29, pp391-397), the stufy found obese people who cut back on their daily calorie intake for three months lost 22 per cent more weight if they ate low-fat yoghurt three times a day compared to those that only had one serving of dairy per day.
The results support previous findings linking dairy foods to lower weight, say the researchers. It is thought that the calcium in dairy foods plays a role in the body's fat absorption although the mechanism for this effect still remains unclear.
Professor Michael Zemel from the University of Tennessee and colleagues randomly assigned 34 obese adults to one of two diet groups. All reduced their usual daily calorie intake by 500 calories but one group consumed only 400-500 mg of calcium per day while the other had an intake of 1100mg of the mineral via three servings of low-fat yoghurt.
The calcium-rich diet helped the participants lose more than an inch around their waist, or an approximate six-fold greater decrease in waist circumference.
Danish researcher Dr Arne Astrup has found another mechanism for calcium's effect on fat reduction, reported in the March issue of the same journal. Calcium could bind fat in the intestine and increase its excretion from the body, his results suggest.