A couple of monster brands in ice cream and yogurt are proving that innovation, combined with lots of marketing, can still stir up dairy’s relatively mature categories. Also, keeping an eye toward dairy’s big middle, another quarter of growth in the milk category has been reported by Information Resources Inc.
First, a look at ice cream: The overall category remains flat, but some brands are growing. These include super premium products like Häagen-Dazs and Ben & Jerry’s but the most remarkable growth continues to come from Nestle/Dreyer’s Slow Churned umbrella. The Slow Churned brand now commands a 7.4% dollar share, according to IRI numbers through March 25. And dollar sales grew by 56% for the 52 weeks prior.
Of these top brands, only private label and Dreyer’s Edy’s standard brand lost ground during the period. These numbers are from IRI’s F/D/MX channel which includes food, drugstores, and mass merchandisers other than Wal-Mart.
Meanwhile in the yogurt case, the monster brand is Dannon’s Activia. Sure that 800% dollar growth is skewed by the brand’s newness, but just the fact that Activia has scaled its way up into the top five in a little over of year is pretty amazing.
Light brands from Yoplait and Dannon continue to perform well too, and Stonyfield Farm, one of the world’s most successful natural and organic brands, shows no signs of slowing after nearly 25 years, with dollar sales growing by more than 20% for the period.
Of course yogurt may be dairy’s least mature category, and one that, by definition, responds well to innovative product development. The overall category was up 6.0% in dollar sales for the period.
Milk sales have made a real turnaround in the last year, and looking at IRI’s numbers, which do not include food service or convenience, we see more of the same in the first quarter of 2007. Unit sales have been in the black for two consecutive quarters, after several quarters of lessening declines. Dollar sales are growing, too. Some of the dollar sales increase appears to be related to higher prices, which could impact unit sales. In fact, unit sales grew less in the Q1 than in Q4 2006.
In the cheese category, natural cheese continues to show growth at retail. Overall natural cheese sales grew by more than 4% by dollar and unit measures, in the Q1, according to IRI. For the 52 weeks ended March 25, unit sales jumped nearly 6%.
Unit sales of natural slices were up more than 15% during that time and unit and dollar sales of natural crumbles skyrocketed-both grew nearly 20%. That leveled off considerably however in Q1, with unit sales of crumbles going nearly flat compared to the same quarter in 2006.