US: Stonyfield looks to steal Greek yoghurt’s thunder

Stonyfield Farm wants to give American yoghurt lovers a new high-protein treat with a twist – and it doesn’t include the word “Greek”.

Hoping to steal some of Greek yoghurt’s thunder, Stonyfield plans to start selling Petite Crème, a yoghurt-like fresh cheese similar to French fromage blanc. It will come in seven, mostly fruit flavours and boast many of the same attributes as Greek yoghurt, like plenty of protein and a creamy texture even in low-fat varieties.

Organic-yoghurt brands like Stonyfield have struggled to compete against the meteoric rise of Greek yoghurt, which now accounts for about 47% of total US yoghurt sales, according to data from market research firm IRI that was provided by Stonyfield. In 2007, Greek varieties made up about 1% of yoghurt on shelves.

Both Greek and organic yoghurts are seen as healthy products with premium images, but organic yoghurts are more expensive. Stonyfield has long struggled to grab a major foothold in the Greek yoghurt market with its own organic variety.

Stonyfield hopes Petite Crème will appeal to people who find Greek yoghurt too thick or bitter, says Sophie Schmitt, director of marketing for Stonyfield, the largest organic-yoghurt seller in the US. The recipe uses cheese, not yoghurt bacterial cultures, giving it a smooth texture and mild taste, she says.

Starting later this US summer, the company plans to pitch the product with the phrase “Cheat on Greek,” while playing up its premium qualities and French connection, she says.

Cup labels are black to stand out on yoghurt shelves filled with white and blue cups, says Rafael Esteve, chief executive of Vinizius/Y&R Barcelona, an advertising firm that worked on the packaging. He says to convey sophistication, “there is nothing better than black.”

The colour is slightly gray to mimic a French bistro menu chalkboard, Schmitt says. Stonyfield, which is owned by Danone SA, hoped to make the outside labels on cups matte, not shiny, so they felt like a chalkboard in a shopper’s hand. But it proved to be a manufacturing challenge, she says. A new version of the packaging planned for a fall release will likely have the matte finish, she says.