`GLURP': GENERAL MILLS SETS INTRO OF SQUEEZABLE YOGURT: KID-FRIENDLY GO-GURT WILL BE SOLD UNDER YOPLAIT BANNER

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General Mills is hoping to make yogurt even more portable with Go-Gurt, a kid-friendly product packaged in a tube that eliminates the need for spoons or refrigeration.

With initial distribution next month on the West Coast and in the Midwest, Go-Gurt will be sold under the marketer's Yoplait brand. It's aimed at the back-to-school crowd and can be served refrigerated, frozen or thawed. The sleeves, which resemble ice pops, can be packed in lunchboxes in the morning and consumed later in the day.

Big G won't discuss its ad plans for Go-Gurt, but the product will receive TV and print ad support from DDB Needham Worldwide, Chicago. The company usually spends about $10 million on ads for new yogurt introductions.

`SLURP IT'

A clue to its creative tack may be contained in promotional materials, which say: "Squeeze it, slurp it, grab it, glurp it."

A General Mills spokeswoman called the introduction a "phased" rollout; the company expects full national distribution in 1999.

"Go-Gurt is really revolutionary and new," said the spokeswoman. "There isn't a competitor for it."

A spokeswoman for Dannon Co. said there is no comparable product under its Dannon yogurt line and the company has no plans at this time to introduce one.

If it takes off, Go-Gurt could help narrow an already small share gap between Big G yogurts (Yoplait and Columbo) and Dannon.

According to Information Resources Inc., General Mills leads Dannon on a unit basis in the refrigerated yogurt category for the 52 weeks ended July 19, with a unit share of 28.5% compared with Dannon's 26.9%. In dollar sales, however, Dannon outpaces General Mills.

Dannon's $586.9 million in sales for the period gives it 33.8% of the dollar sales in the $1.7 billion category, as compared with Big G's $474.4 million in sales for a 27.3% share.

MOMENTUM WITH BIG G

Still, the momentum is on General Mills' side. According to IRI, its yogurt sales during the period climbed 15.8%, while Dannon saw 0.7% growth. Dannon has had few new products of late.

Go-Gurt is the latest in a string of faster and even more portable snacks for kids, following Kellogg Co.'s Breakfast Mates, an all-in-one cereal, bowl, spoon and aseptic milk combination, and Oscar Mayer Food Corp.'s All-Star Lunchables hot dog and hamburger combinations, which are eaten cold.

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