“Dairy needs true innovation”: Chobani Gimmies taps into elusive kids yogurt market
The Chobani Gimmies concept took more than a year to develop and will finally hit the market in early 2019. With 13 different products paired with fully-imagined characters designed for the 6-10 age range, it’s a major leap into the stagnant kids’ yogurt market.
Hamdi Ulukaya, founder and CEO of Chobani, said, "Options today are lousy or impractical. It's either junk food that parents don't want their kids to eat or food that's designed for adults that kids don't want to eat. We wanted to break that cycle and it's a challenge we took really seriously.”
Peter McGuinness, chief marketing officer at Chobani, thinks the time is ripe for out-of-the-box dairy innovation, particularly within specific age categories. He explained that toddlers aged 3-5 have plenty of options, but among kids, tweens and young teens yogurt consumption plummets.
“We want to do what we did to Greek to kids yogurt. We want to go in and we want to innovate and excite. We want more kids eating dairy and yogurt. How do we do that? We have to understand why it has low household penetration, and why kids aren’t eating it or aren’t excited by it,” McGuinness told DairyReporter.
Yogurt makes the ‘win list’
In focus groups and interviews, parents repeatedly told Chobani that yogurt is always on their ‘win list’ for groceries, but they often can’t get them to reach for it. This led Chobani to the development of kid-inspired original characters correlating with each Gimmies product.
McGuinness said the decision to create a new family of product mascots rather than signing a licensing deal with an existing animated movie was a significant one, because the Gimmies characters are directly tied to the food and drinks they represent.
The launch includes three flavors of Milkshakes, three flavors of Tubes, two flavors of Pouches and five flavors of Crunch, which is the kids equivalent to the Chobani Flip. The products are made with all-natural, non-GMO ingredients, without any thickeners, preservatives or artificial sweeteners.
With names like, Poppin' Cotton Candy, Choco Chunk Cookie Dunk, Super Berry Rocket, Creamy Orange Dreamy and Cherry Set Go, Chobani tapped into exactly what attracts kids to a product simply by asking them. The development team did all their testing with kids in terms of flavors, formats and character concepts. The children even inspired the name by asking the team “please gimme one.”
“It’s not something we designed in a vacuum or an office in New York City or even our R&D facility in Idaho. We developed it with parents and kids all across America,” McGuinness said.
“They loved the world of the characters. The characters are the flavors; it’s inextricably linked.”
Expansion plans are possible
With Gimmies, Chobani is trying define specific eating occasions throughout the day that work for parents and the targeted kids age group.
“We wanted an at-school play with the Tubes, we wanted an on-the-go play with the Pouch and [Milkshakes], and we wanted an at-home play with the mix-in Crunch. These are formats that all require different expertise and different things at our plants, like factories and equipment. That all takes time,” McGuinness said.
The brand is planning a large campaign to support the launch in 2019, that will be multifaceted from “merchandising to digital to social to television to point of sale.”
Chobani also recognizes that the specific branding formula that they have found works with Gimmies may also work adapted for kids of different ages that struggle with yogurt consumption.
“We do see that there’s probably a market to add to Gimmies or extend it into that tween age group, so that we can keep kids consuming yogurt all throughout grade school and high school,” McGuinness said.
Right now the kids yogurt market is worth just over $1bn, and Chobani believes that it could be growing more. Children are being underserved and Greek yogurt in general is facing challenges.
“I would call it dynamic at the moment. Greek yogurt is not declining. Most of the issue is in price; there’s been a lot of over-promoting and irrational pricing going on,” McGuinness said.
“There’s been a lot of copycats, and a lot of SKU duplications and proliferation. There’s been a lot of price deflation, and these are all self-inflicted things that have caused Greek to plateau.”