During his 17 years with the food behemoth, Mr. Friendly, 39, has focused on building growth vehicles for various categories, including kids' cereals and fruit snacks, for which he helped launch the first line of kid-targeted shapes. But the success of Yoplait Go-Gurt, kid-targeted slurpable yogurt in a tube, has amazed even him.
"It's remarkable how quickly Go-Gurt has permeated the whole kid environment and become a critical part of the fabric of kids' lives," Mr. Friendly says.
Go-Gurt, which launched nationally last October, has grown to $100 million in retail sales, bolstering General Mills to No. 1 in refrigerated yogurt ahead of Dannon Co. The hot product's entry has also triggered a new growth phase for the category as a whole.
Go-Gurt won kids over with a combination of packaging and marketing.
Looking to appeal to older, on-the-go kids, General Mills developed tube-like packaging designed to fit lunchboxes and formulated the first-ever freezable yogurt, intended to thaw by lunchtime, in far-out flavors such as Chill Out Cherry and Strawberry Kiwi Kick.
But, Mr. Friendly cedes, the success of new product innovation comes not just from a great idea but from a great execution of the idea. Working closely with Saatchi & Saatchi, New York, General Mills communicated the hipness of the grab 'n go yogurt with TV spots that commanded kids to "Lose the spoon" if they wanted to be cool, as well as sampling at children's events, fairs and zoos.