Happy hour: The Collective’s espresso martini yoghurt aims to halt the decline in dairy

Food Spark finds out where the yoghurt brand could go next and what it sees as the major trends affecting sales.

7 August 2019
chilleddairygut healthNPDsugarsupermarkets

Branded yoghurt is a category that’s struggling. Sales volumes are down 3.6%, equating to 134m fewer pots sold in 2018, Kantar data shows, with Danone’s Dairies’ managing director Craig Read issuing a warning last year that they are not attracting enough younger consumers, nor making it easy enough for shoppers to understand the health benefits of the category.

The Collective’s cocktail-inspired yoghurts could be one way to attract a younger audience back.

The alcohol cabinet is providing the inspiration for the brand’s limited-edition Happy Hour collection, which began with the Pina Colada yoghurt in the spring. Launching this week is the Espresso Martini, which should be on sale until the end of the year in Sainsbury’s, Waitrose, Asda, Ocado, Morrisons and Wholefoods, with two more flavours planned for 2020.

“The idea is that you can enjoy happy hour with The Collective whenever you like, guilt-free, and that you are going to remember this happy hour as after all it is a yoghurt, rather than a cocktail,” Chris Lock, marketing director at The Collective, tells Food Spark.

“The thinking behind happy hour is that we can see yoghurts do give people a moment of joy, that it’s a really enjoyable experience and you know it’s doing you some good on the inside. Happy hour seemed to be a great way to encapsulate that feeling, but doing it in a way that would resonate with people. Everyone knows what happy hour is and what to expect from it, and it gave our product team the opportunity to show off their skills at making great tasting yoghurt products.”

Lock won’t be drawn on the new flavours coming to the range, but does reveal that during the experimentation phase the team discovered that champagne cocktails like Bellini’s were difficult to translate into pots.

Happy kids all round

While the big kids are getting a bit boozy, Lock says The Collective’s children’s range – particularly the Suckies pouches, which come in fruit flavours like peach and apricot; banana; raspberry; strawberry; and apple and blackcurrant – are absolutely flying off the shelves.

“In the last four weeks they have been growing at 40% year-on-year, and in the last quarter they have been growing at 25% year-on-year,” he comments.

“It’s really interesting – if you were to do a chart of each of the major yoghurt brands in the kids market and if you were to plot growth, Suckies is actually the only one in growth. And on that chart, if you plotted the sugar content, you would see that Suckies has got the lowest. So we are certain that there is a direct correlation between parents wanting to give kids yoghurts because they know it’s good for them and kids like yoghurts, but actively choosing products that have got less sugar in them.”

Going green and nurturing the gut

The rise of the conscious shopper, who wants products in recyclable packaging and minimal food waste, is one of the big trends influencing dairy at the moment, says Lock. This mindset is also driving the movement towards plant-based products.

“Right now we don’t offer a plant-based alternative,” he says. “We are certainly keeping a close eye on that market as that is also growing very fast at the moment. I think an awful lot of plant-based products right now represent quite a compromise on flavour versus traditional dairy yoghurt, but then you do have products like Rebel Kitchen and Coyo out there, which are particularly good.”

While kefir is still niche – because the vast majority of people haven’t heard of it or don’t fully understand its benefits – it is growing very fast. Consumers increasingly take an interest in gut health, says Lock, soT he Collective has been playing in the space with yoghurt pots, drinks and even a kids range.

People are also realising diet or low-fat products are often full of sugars and sweeteners, so there is a movement towards more natural yoghurts and people bringing in their own textures and flavours with fruit, compote, muesli or granola.

“We also see there is a real time pressure around convenience, so if you are able to provide a product that meets one of those trends around sugar or environmental conscience or gut health and is delicious and is really easy to consume or purchase – those products tend to do extremely well,” he explains.

Dairy decline

Lock doesn’t shy away from the fact, however, that the dairy category is in a “bit of a state.”

“Across the whole category, it’s in a shallow level of decline, and that’s driven a lot by declines in high-sugar products,” he explains.

“I think our view is that in the longer term there should be a strong role for dairy for kids – people just need to make products that are much better suited to them and much healthier for them, like we do. There is always going to be strong role for natural as yoghurt is such a big part of people’s breakfasts and snacks, and natural gives people the opportunity to make their own meal and control what they’re eating.”

At the same time, The Collective is also seeing a big squeeze in retail with the amount of space that is being given to dairy.

“Customers and retailers, generally speaking,are in a race to the bottom on price as they try to compete with the discounters, so there is definitely an opportunity to still premiumise the market, and for brands like The Collective and other challengers to show what dairy can be like when you invest in really high-quality ingredients.”

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