PARIS-Stonyfield Europe has introduced a new line of organic yogurt products under the auspices of the newly-created Stonyfield France.



PARIS-Stonyfield Europe has introduced a new line of organic yogurt products under the auspices of the newly-created Stonyfield France.

"Les Deux Vaches des Fermiers du Bio" is inspired by the success of organic pioneer Gary Hirshberg, whose Stonyfield Farm brand is the top-selling U.S. organic yogurt.

Stonyfield Europe was created in June as an independent entity within Groupe Danone's Fresh Dairy Products division. Paris-based Groupe Danone, the largest fresh dairy company in the world, also owns 85% of Stonyfield Farm.

The new locally-developed French product line will promote Stonyfield's highly successful "healthy people, healthy planet" mission.

"Because French consumers eat four times as much yogurt as Americans, we see this as an enormous opportunity to encourage and expand consumer demand for dairy from organic farms across the French countryside," says Gary Hirshberg, Stonyfield Farm's president and CEO. "The European organic food market is growing rapidly, from 10 billion Euros ($12.8B) last year to an anticipated 25 billion Euros ($31.9B) annually by 2010."

Stonyfield France was created as the result of a small entrepreneurial working group within Groupe Danone which was inspired by Hirshberg's approach to marketing and environmental mission. "This group started thinking about ways to learn from Stonyfield and offer new opportunities for organic dairy farmers in France, whose market is growing, but remains limited to something of a special interest group," says Groupe Danone Chairman/CEO Franck Riboud.

Stonyfield France's goal was to create a healthy brand suited to French tastes. The result is "Les Deux Vaches des Fermiers du Bio," loosely translated as "the two cows of organic farmers." The website is www.les2vaches.com.

Hirshberg explains, "We are not just selling products, we are selling important ideas and that means we will look beyond traditional marketing tools to promote this product, drawing inspiration from some of the ideas that have proved successful in the U.S."

For example, the non-traditional grassroots marketing campaign for Les Deux Vaches takes the form of a running cartoon dialogue between two organic cows on the products' labels. The smart cow, wearing glasses, educates her younger, more naïve bovine companion and consumers on the benefits of organic food, and the environmental advantages of organic farming.

This marketing-with-a-message campaign draws from Stonyfield Farm's success in directly engaging consumers in a meaningful relationship with an inviting, quirky style. "Our approach is based on convictions," Hirshberg continues. "That includes direct contact with consumers whenever possible, including socially-conscious messages on lids, and an interactive, informative and fun website."

The Deux Vaches line includes plain and flavored products for adults, and plain flavored and cereal-added products for babies and toddlers. They are made with organic milk from two cooperatives of family farms in Normandy, La Loire and Bretagne and they are flavored with handpicked fruit.

Production takes place in Usine Molay-Littry, a small Danone yogurt and dairy dessert facility near the small community of Molay-Littry along the English Channel near the city of Caen.

Stonyfield Europe is managed by Hirshberg. In July it acquired 37% of Irish organic dairy producer Glenisk.

Danone's Riboud said in July that Stonyfield Europe was created to spur further development of the market for organic dairy products in Europe and ultimately, worldwide.

"The European market for organic dairy products is growing, but it remains a fairly discreet presence," he said.

"With Stonyfield Europe, we hope to capitalize on the success and unique expertise of Stonyfield Farm to speed up its development."

Stonyfield France says that recent research shows about 47% of French consumers eat organic products only occasionally, but a much larger majority are open to the concept of sustainability and would try organic products more often if they were marketed to them more effectively.