Silk aims to sweeten the unsweetened segment

The Danone brand looks to pounce on more growth opportunities in oat beverages and plant-based yogurt.

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Silk is hoping for a smooth launch for two new unsweetened products, as the decades-old plant-based pioneer is bolstering two key growth areas.

The new non-dairy beverage alternative Oat Yeah Unsweetened follows the successful fall 2019 Canadian launch of Silk’s range of oat beverage products – which the brand says is the fastest-growing segment of the non-dairy beverage market. It’s also adding a new unsweetened option to its portfolio of six plant-based yogurt-style products, with Silk Almond Yogurt Style Plain.

In a statement, Genevieve Bolduc, marketing director, plant-based category at Danone Canada said “almost half of all consumers say that low sugar or sugar-free characteristics are important when they decide on a food or beverage product.”

Janick Couture-Houle, brand manager at Danone Canada, tells strategy that “oats exploded in 2019,” within a category has already seen huge growth, with the total plant-based beverage sector seeing 375% growth from the year prior. Oats, she says, gave consumers the variety they look for on the shelf, as well as provided an option for those intolerant of nut products.

And the growth in oats for Danone, Couture-Houle says, is not coming at the expense of other non-dairy beverage flavours. Soy put Silk on the map, and Couture-Houle says “it has been growing both in shelf-stable and refrigerated SKUs.”

In store, Silk is working on new communications platform, “Good for You”. It builds on the ethos of democratizing plant-based eating, Couture-Houle says, as the brand is a “leader and pioneer going back to 1977” while also motivating and congratulating consumers for small changes they are making toward healthier lifestyle habits. It will be going live in April, timed with the launch of Oat Yeah, but also to promote its existing core Silk products. The brand is currently finalizing the creative.

Silk is also adding a new unsweetened option to its plant-based yogurt-style products with the launch of Silk Almond Yogurt Style Plain in January. It currently has four coconut flavours on shelf, and now seven almond. These will also be part of the “Good for You” campaign.

With yogurt-style offerings, Couture-Houle says the creative is looking to reflect use cases consumers are most familiar with – such as adding the product to smoothies, fruit bowls and breakfast.

While beverage constitutes 80% of Silk’s portfolio, yogurt is growing, with the brand owning 40% of new items on the shelf across the category. Silk will launch more yogurt-style SKUs in the next two years; with a penetration rate for plant-based yogurt of 6.1%, Couture-Houle says there are lots of opportunities for growth.

When it comes to grocery store placement, 70% of consumers expect dairy alternatives next to dairy on the shelf, even though many of its offerings are in the “natural” section. “We are working with retailers to move it to the dairy shelf,” Couture-Houle says. For mainstream users, the key to growth is being closer to dairy, Couture-Houle says, even if vegans may feel differently.

She says Silk wants to emphasize that it’s a multi category brand with beverage, yogurt and coffee creamers and wants the site to be easy to find a great reference for consumers.