General Mills eyes potential in yogurt category

by Eric Schroeder
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PARIS — Pleased about the growth prospects of its ready-to-eat cereal, super premium ice cream, convenient meals and healthy snacks businesses, General Mills is equally excited about adding yogurt as a new global platform, said Don Mulligan, executive vice-president and chief financial officer of the Minneapolis-based company. Mr. Mulligan spoke June 14 at the Deutsche Bank Global Consumer Conference in Paris.

“We are very excited about the yogurt category and its prospects for growth,” Mr. Mulligan said. “With $65 billion in annual sales, the global yogurt category is one of the largest and most attractive food categories in the world. Consumer demand is growing in response to increased interest in foods that emphasize nutrition, convenience, flavor variety and value, and yogurt delivers against each one of these attributes.”

Innovations such as portable yogurt in a tube, yogurt with targeted health benefits, and Greek yogurt have helped propel U.S. yogurt sales above $4 billion. Mr. Mulligan said General Mills, which generates more than 30% of retail category yogurt sales in the United States through the Yoplait brand, now is looking forward to expanding beyond the United States, a step it will take once its acquisition of a controlling interest in the international Yoplait operating company and 50% stake in the worldwide Yoplait trademarks from PAI Partners and Sodiaal is completed in the first quarter of fiscal 2012.

In doing so, Mr. Mulligan said General Mills will look to make its mark in many markets around the world where yogurt consumption is quite low, including India and Indonesia, where per capita yogurt consumption is below 1 kg, and Russia and China, where per capita consumption is less than 4 kg.

“We see robust opportunities ahead in the global yogurt category,” he said. “We are excited to continue our long-term partnership with Sodiaal and work with the talented management team that’s operating this business. Our plan is to drive accelerated growth with the Yoplait brand in existing markets and expand into new markets around the globe.”

Yoplait has wholly-owned operations in several countries, with the largest businesses in France, the United Kingdom and Canada. Currently 26 franchisees license the Yoplait trademark.

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