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Oui, Yoplait Needs Help, So it Looks to France for Inspiration

By Published on .

Oui by Yoplait is a new French-style yogurt from General Mills
Oui by Yoplait is a new French-style yogurt from General Mills Credit: General Mills

General Mills calls yogurt a growth business. The problem is, it hasn't been growing.

So the company is looking to leverage Yoplait's French heritage with hopes of igniting yogurt sales with a product its CEO has said will "bring an entirely new yogurt taste and texture to the U.S. market." Oui by Yoplait is being touted as an artisanal product made and sold in glass pots, and will be sold in U.S. stores by July. Marketing will follow in August.

The debut comes years after General Mills, and the U.S. yogurt sector at large, was a bit blindsided by the popularity of Chobani and other Greek-style yogurts.

Last year, Chobani overtook Yoplait as the top yogurt brand in the U.S., according to Euromonitor International. In 2016 General Mills held a 19.4% share of the $9 billion U.S. yogurt market, trailing Chobani's 21.8%, according to Euromonitor data. And the pain has persisted. Yoplait sales fell 20% in the last 52 weeks, according to Morgan Stanley analyst Matthew Grainger.

General Mills may discuss the declines in more detail when it reports fiscal fourth-quarter results on June 28, but executives have long said they needed to get back to innovation on yogurt. Speaking during a March conference call Jeff Harmening, who became CEO on June 1, said the new line would break new ground in the category with a unique taste and texture.

Oui is not the company's only yogurt innovation. Months ago, it brought back Yoplait Custard and introduced two Greek-style products, Greek 100 Protein and Yoplait Dippers. General Mills also plays in the organic yogurt space with the Annie's and Liberte brands.

With Oui, General Mills is going a bit back to basics. The French-style yogurt is being touted as thick and creamy, with non-GMO ingredients including whole milk, cane sugar, real pieces of fruit and yogurt cultures. The "artisanal" yogurt also comes at a higher price. A 5-ounce jar of Oui has a suggested retail price of $1.49, pitting it against the likes of Noosa and Siggi's. A 6-ounce cup of Yoplait Original has a suggested price of 69 cents.

Eight flavors are being introduced: Strawberry, Blueberry, Black Cherry, Vanilla, Coconut, Lemon, Peach, and Plain. Emphasizing a clean-label approach, Oui does not contain any artificial sweeteners, preservatives, flavors or colors from artificial sources.

Its campaign will come from 72andSunny, a key General Mills agency which also works on the main Yoplait line. Previously, Yoplait's account went from Saatchi & Saatchi to Wieden & Kennedy, which now works with rival Chobani. Oui's marketing plans were not shared, though General Mills is already giving people one tip: don't stir. Instead, it suggests Oui should be spoon cut.

Oui is made by pouring the ingredients into single-serve glass pots and letting them culture for eight hours, while most U.S. yogurt is cultured in large batches and then packaged in plastic tubs. The company said Oui was inspired by Yoplait's Saveur d'Autrefois (or "taste of yesteryear"), which is sold in France.

Yoplait traces its history to 1965 when French dairy farmers from six co-ops joined together to sell their products and blended parts of the names of two of the co-ops, Yola and Coplait. General Mills got exclusive U.S. rights to the brand in 1977.

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