Dannon Oikos still fastest-growing brand in Greek yogurt segment, with sales topping $400m in 2012

By Elaine WATSON

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Greek yogurt

A still from one of Dannon's latest ads designed to highlight that Greek yogurt is a great source of protein...
A still from one of Dannon's latest ads designed to highlight that Greek yogurt is a great source of protein...
While many new products generate impressive year-one sales after blasting out of the starting blocks bolstered by great distribution and piles of promotional cash, few sustain this momentum. But Dannon’s Oikos Greek yogurt brand is a notable exception.

Sales of the brand - which hit the headlines after generating a whopping $274m in year one - exceeded $400m in 2012, according to Michael Neuwirth, senior director of public relations at Dannon.

Neuwirth was speaking to FoodNavigator-USA after announcing a tie up with Starbucks to launch Greek yogurt parfait products under the ‘Evolution Fresh, inspired by Dannon’ brand, which will hit US Starbucks stores in 2014, before being rolled out through grocery channels by Dannon in 2015. (Click here​ for details.)

“Dannon Oikos continues to be the fastest-growing brand in the Greek segment”, ​says Neuwirth. “In Greek, we’re currently number two ​[behind Chobani] but the difference between us in terms of market share is quite small.”

So if Dannon continues on its current growth trajectory, could it overtake Chobani and snatch the top spot?

“It’s possible”, ​says Neuwirth, “but we’re more focused on what our consumers and our customers are doing ​[than what the competition is doing].”

Dannon Oikos continues to be the fastest-growing brand in the Greek segment

But is there room for so many players and products in the Greek yogurt segment?

The key is working with retailers to optimize the space available, he says, although all manufacturers would obviously also like to see an increase in the linear footage devoted to the category given its meteoric growth in recent years.

And given that Americans still eat on average less than one cup of yogurt a week, there is still enormous growth potential, he says.

The yogurt category as a whole remains very underdeveloped in our opinion. We’d like to change things so Americans are eating yogurt every day.

“But we’re not just focused on Oikos. We’re looking at our portfolio in its entirety. Our Light & Fit Greek yogurt is bringing back growth to the light category, and we’ve also launched Activia Greek.”

A lot of attention is also being paid to frozen Greek yogurt (Dannon acquired YoCream International in 2010 and in 2012, introduced a new Greek Frozen Yogurt soft serve mix) and away from home consumption, as evidenced by the deal with Starbucks, says Neuwirth.

“We see a tremendous opportunity here.”

Greek now accounts for 44% of dollar sales in the yogurt category

The rise of Greek yogurt has been meteoric in the past five years, with consumers buying into its low-fat credentials, high protein content and thicker texture.

Indeed, Greek now accounts for 44% of dollar sales in the yogurt category compared with just 4% in 2008.

Its high-protein message is also appealing to men, says Neuwirth, who says that typically, yogurts are consumed 60% of the time by women and 50% by men, but that this ratio drops to 54% by women and 46% by men when you look just at Greek yogurt.

We want to change the frame of reference for yogurt with ads like this

So how has the marketing of Oikos evolved?

“Initially, we focused on the equity message, the taste, and the fact that people preferred the taste of Oikos over the leading brand by 2:1”, ​he says.

“Now we have added two additional prongs: Cooking with Oikos and the high protein message.”

The fact that Dannon Oikos is a versatile cooking ingredient is the focus of a new campaign with Food Network Iron Chef Michael Symon, who uses it in everything from corn soup with cilantro to Greek yogurt chicken.

Other recipes on the Oikosyogurt.com site include cinnamon scented stuffed sweet potatoes, key lime pie, and roasted Brussels sprouts with caramelized onion and yogurt drizzle.

The protein message, meanwhile, is being bolstered with test campaigns in publications such as Men’s Health and new ads featuring Dannon Oikos in a butcher’s shop next to chops and steaks, says Neuwirth.

“We want to change the frame of reference for yogurt with ads like this. That it’s not just about weight or digestive health.”

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