How General Mills Is Trying to Get Its Yogurt Mojo Back

Company Breaks New Yoplait Ads, Introduces Burst of New Products

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If you've gone Greek, it doesn't mean you don't come back.

In fact, General Mills has found that many yogurt consumers routinely switch between the protein-packed Greek varieties and lighter, more traditional blends. That's good news for the marketer's Yoplait brand, which has lost some luster during the Greek craze, as hot brands like Chobani won new attention. Now Yoplait is looking to put life back in its traditional blends with new products and advertising debuting next week.

General Mills isn't giving up on Greek, a segment it has struggled in after getting late start. The company hopes to make up ground with new products such as Yoplait Greek 100, a 100-calorie version that will be launched in August with the Weight Watchers' seal of approval.

But at the same time, Yoplait is planning line extensions for its traditional lineup, including Yoplait Simplait, which touts "just 6 simple ingredients," and Yoplait Fruplait, which has twice the fruit of regular Yoplait. "There is no question that we have ground to make up in Greek yogurt, and we have a plan to become a much more meaningful player in the Greek segment," said Steve Young, VP-marketing for Yoplait. But "for the long term, the far bigger opportunity for us ... is the growth potential of this [total] category."

Indeed, while Greek has grabbed the spotlight, it still only accounts for 35% of total yogurt sales, according to Bernstein Research. Still, newer Greek brands are growing fast, stealing share from Yoplait. Although Yoplait is still the No. 1 yogurt brand in the U.S. with nearly 27% share, sales fell 8.7% in the year ending April 15, compared with the 8% gain categorywide, according to Symphony IRI, which excludes Walmart. And General Mills has only 5.7% of the Greek market, according to Bernstein.

One opportunity Yoplait sees is to position traditional blends for snacking, since a lot of people turn to thicker Greek blends as a meal replacement, Mr. Young said.

The Yoplait line extensions are among 35 new yogurt varieties planned for the next six months, including plans to bring a Canadian yogurt brand called Liberte to the U.S. Competitor Dannon is also shaking up the dairy case with new products, including its own lower-calorie Greek version called Light & Fit that has 80 calories. (Regular Greek yogurts have from 110 to 190 calories.) Dannon is also introducing Activia Breakfast, which has added protein and oats and comes in a larger size than regular Activia. The move seems aimed at stealing even more share from cereal, which has suffered as more people eat yogurt.

The new Yoplait advertising is by brand agency Saatchi & Saatchi, New York and will include TV, digital and print. It is an umbrella effort for all Yoplait varieties, including Greek, which debuted in 2010, three years after Chobani rocketed out of the gate. But the emphasis is on re-energizing the Yoplait name, with colorful ads that tout the brand's many flavors and iconic inverted cup design.

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"The Greek revolution has really reframed the yogurt category," said Brent Smart, Saatchi's worldwide managing director for the General Mills account. But "rather than being defensive against Greek, what we are really doing here is being incredibly confident and incredibly proud of what Yoplait is really about, which is about lots of variety, lots of flavors [and] color."

The new campaign also puts more emphasis on Yoplait's long-used "it is so good" tagline. The motto had taken a back seat in recent efforts, which have included ads featuring women talking about the yogurt in their kitchen, for instance. By contrast, the first round of new TV spots puts the yogurt cups on center stage, overlaying product shots with tweets and Facebook posts from consumers raving about the brand. While social-media-infused TV campaigns are hardly new, Mr. Smart said the ads are "less about the tweets, and it's more about the way those spots look and feel. We want to give it color, we want to give it energy. We want to give it life."

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