Lactalis puts marketing for new drinkable yogurt on hold

The format was on an upswing, but will it sustain given the way consumer demand and habits have shifted?



With consumers turning to more shelf-stable products and “pantry loading” with canned soups, oats and non-perishable proteins, where does that leave yogurt?

Lactalis Canada, which also manufactures brands like Beatrice, Lactantia and Astro, had planned on unveiling what it calls a first in the kids’ yogourt category – Stonyfield Organic Kids Drinkable Yogurt, a portable snack made with 100% organic milk. The brand had an activation scheduled during March Break’s Spring Fest in Toronto, with wellness influencers in Quebec and the rest of the country offering product coupons to customers willing to digitally share stories about spontaneous play and favorite ways to spend time outdoors with family.

But with parks all over the country closing most facilities, public events cancelled and work and school-going habits altered, there is going to be an effect on on-the-go items, particularly the popular drinkable yogurt format, which has outpacing other formats in terms of growth for the last few years.

Burhan Khan, national marketing director for Lactalis Canada says that aside from sampling activations, its plans to target online ad were scuttled too, as the company believes, “it is not the best time to advertise a new brand, as consumers will be less receptive.”

According to Khan, when the campaign was being devised, the strategy was to focus on driving awareness and trial, as happens with most new product launches. Lactalis, he says, saw more growth opportunities in the drinkable category, as it is the most popular format within the Canadian kids yogurt market. The idea was to tap the growing organic food segment in Canada and appeal to parents of young children who are more likely to seek these kinds of options.

However, people are looking to keep their in-store grocery experiences brief, even without sampling programs. And while there’s been a boon to frozen and canned goods, there is less demand for products with lesser shelf life.

Sylvain Charlebois is professor in food distribution and policy at Dalhousie University. He tells strategy “the relationship with our kitchens has been completely pulverized. People will likely commute, visit, and travel, but I suspect the market will feel attached to some sort of home base, more so than ever.”

Khan says there was a “substantial surge in demand” as consumers stocked in the early stages of COVID-19 as consumers stocked refrigerators. Despite the move towards shelf-stable, he believes demand for its products will continue, as dairy remains a key part of Canadian’s diets.

When allowed by retailers, Lactalis plans to return to sampling and promoting Stonyfield Organic Kids Drinkable Yogourt on shelf with coupons. New Hampshire’s Stonyfield, which Lactalis bought from competitor and market leader Danone in 2017, is “a key part of Lactalis Canada’s Organic portfolio” Khan says. He says its main differentiator is having the lowest sugar per bottle versus major competitors (Danone’s Danino subbrand, aimed at kids, took its sugar content down 40%, while General Mills’ drinkable Yop, is targeting convention-breaking teens with enhanced protein).

Charlebois says the yogurt category overall has aged well thus far because it is seen as a healthy product. “Consumption has been encouraged by health professionals whereas milk had one major competitor, water,” Charlebois says. He adds that there has been a lot of production innovation in yogurt, affecting the entire category, which has helped it flourish in recent years. Danone, for example, recently added plant-based yogurt SKUs and had plans for more later this year, while Lactalis/Parmalat Canada’s Astro Keffir Probiotic yogourt’s selling point is amped up probiotics.

Successful products in the category, Charlebois says, have adapted to market trends with better product design and packaging.

Stonyfield Organic Kids Drinkable Yogourt is currently available at Metro Ontario, Food Basics, Walmart Ontario, FreshCo, Longo’s, Metro Quebec, IGA Quebec and Federated Co-Op banners.