NEW YORK — In the year ahead, a key priority for General Mills, Inc. is finding firmer footing in the $8 billion U.S. yogurt category, said Jeff Harmening, president and chief operating officer.
|Jeff Harmening, president and c.o.o. of General Mills|
“Right now, our product portfolio is not well aligned with segments that are driving growth,” Mr. Harmening said during the company’s Fiscal 2017 Investor Day on July 13 in New York. “We underindex in Greek and overindex in traditional light yogurt, which has been a significant headwind. And we don’t play at all in the fast-growing beverage and organic segments — yet.
“So in 2017 we are taking the innovation and renovation plan that has been working for us in cereal and applying it to our yogurt business.”
Minneapolis-based General Mills plans to update or reformulate 60% of its yogurt portfolio over the next 12 months, beginning with children’s yogurts.
“In the first half of the year we are renovating our entire kid portfolio, including new packaging and a whole-milk formula on Yoplait Kids, larger multipacks in kid equity cups, and new sizes and fresh packaging on Go-GURT, the yogurt in a tube,” Mr. Harmening said. “In the second half of this year we will be renovating two of our biggest businesses, Yoplait Original and Greek 100, with more of the benefits consumers love about these products. And we will be providing advertising support behind all of these renovations.”
Yogurt innovation set to launch during the year include Go Big low-fat yogurt with fruit in a “grip and rip” pouch suited for older children and teenagers, Yoplait Custard Whole Milk Yogurt and Yoplait Greek 2% Whips!, made with 2% milkfat.
“The higher milk fat content gives this yogurt a thicker, richer whipped texture, which is distinct from other yogurt offerings, and these products contain no artificial sweeteners,” Mr. Harmening said. “Our traditional Whips! brand is popular with kids, so we will expect to increase adult and kid consumption with this new offering.”
Also on tap are Yoplait yogurt beverages, which the company plans to launch in cities with large Hispanic populations, Mr. Harmening said.
“These products are very popular in Mexico, and so we’re excited to bring them to Hispanic consumers in the U.S.” he said.
“In the second half of the year we will bring a little crunch to yogurt with a combination of pretzels or cinnamon chips and yogurt, perfect for dipping and snacking on the go.”
General Mills also is expanding its organic yogurt offerings under the Annie’s and Liberte brands.
“We launched Annie’s yogurt in January, and the initial results are strong, so now we’re offering large-size tubs and yogurt tubes for kids, all made with whole milk and real fruit,” Mr. Harmening said. “This summer we will relaunch our U.S. Liberte yogurt as a premium organic brand targeted to adults. This thick, indulgent yogurt comes in eight unique flavors like French lavender and Ecuadorian mango.”
Yogurt innovation is one of three key priorities for General Mills’ U.S. retail business this coming year. The company also is focused on accelerating performance in cereal, snacks, natural and organic products, Totino’s and Old El Paso products, while driving profitability in Progresso soups, Pillsbury refrigerated dough and Betty Crocker desserts.“For 2017, we expect this approach will result in a low single-digit decline in organic net sales with segment operating profits expanding 200 basis points,” Mr. Harmening said.