Yoplait debuts in China

by Eric Schroeder
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General Mills to roll out three new lines: Perle de lait, Panier de fruits, and O'Fruit.

MINNEAPOLIS — It’s yogurt time in China for General Mills, Inc. The Minneapolis-based company on June 8 introduced its Yoplait brand in the country as part of a roll-out of three new lines: Perle de lait, a thick and creamy French-style yogurt; Panier de fruits, the first fruit-on-the-bottom yogurt in the category; and O’Fruit, a drinkable yogurt with big fruit pieces that requires an extra-large straw to drink. The new yogurt lines will be available in hypermarkets, supermarkets and convenience stores in Shanghai.

Yoplait’s entry into China marks a step forward in General Mills’ expansion of the global Yoplait brand and also represents a step forward for the company’s China business overall, which has grown at a 15% compound rate over the past four years with nearly $700 million in annual sales. With approximately $4 billion in retail sales worldwide and availability in more than 50 markets, Yoplait is the No. 2 player in the $83 billion global yogurt category, trailing only Danone.

“Our entry into China with Yoplait is a major milestone in General Mills history,” said Ken Powell, chairman and chief executive officer of General Mills. “We’re excited about the prospects for growth across our global yogurt business. Yogurt has been one of the hottest food categories in the world over the past decade. We like our positions in key developed markets, and we see plenty of room for future growth as category consumption continues to develop in emerging yogurt markets.”

According to Euromonitor, yogurt is a $10 billion dollar category in China, with sales growing at a double-digit pace. General Mills said it is focusing Yoplait’s initial launch in Shanghai, but plans to grow the brand through a city-by-city approach before expanding geographically.

“With the tremendous economic growth in China, consumers are increasingly demanding better quality and experience of foods,” said Gary Chu, senior vice-president and president of General Mills Greater China. “Chinese consumers like the health benefits of yogurt, and we are thrilled to add our world-class Yoplait products to our growing portfolio of brands and products that Chinese consumers have come to love and trust.”

The introduction of Yoplait in China marks General Mills’ largest expansion of the brand since the company acquired a 51% controlling interest in Yoplait S.A.S. in 2011. Sodiaal, a French dairy cooperative, continues to hold the remaining ownership stake.
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