Taking ’07 by Storm

The growth in probiotics has finally hit the pages of The New York Times, which means that they’ve officially arrived, as far as the mass media is concerned.
With the new year barely a month old, one of the nation’s leading yogurt makers is wasting no time in getting its new probiotic offerings to market. The Dannon Co., White Plains, N.Y., is putting a full-court press on probiotics with the launch of three new probiotic yogurts to propel yogurt growth in the United States, still considered an “emerging” market for yogurt compared to its decades of penetration overseas (Americans consume 7.2 pounds of yogurt per year, while the French eat 49.1).
Probiotics — friendly bacteria that help digestive health — are the core of Dannon’s strategy to bring “high health” products to consumers, according to a recent press release.
Last year, the company launched its first probiotic yogurt, Activia, which during 2006 exceeded $100 million in sales — numbers achieved by less than a tenth of a percent of new products — outselling prune juice and two name-brand fiber products as a digestion regulator.
Dannon reports that 15 percent of U.S. Activia consumers are new to the yogurt category. Meanwhile, customers outside the United States daily consume 6 million bottles of Actimel, a probiotic yogurt sold internationally by Dannon parent Groupe Danone. The international probiotic market is $10 billion and growing.
New from Dannon for 2007 are DanActive (known abroad as Actimel), designed to strengthen the body’s defenses by enhancing the digestive tract where 70 percent of the immune system is located; Danimals, a reformulation of the kids’ yogurt now containing a multi-functional probiotic for children, plus no artificial colors, flavors or high fructose corn syrup; and Activia Light, a lower-calorie version of Dannon’s star of 2006.
What might be coming next? There are hints across the pond.
The Financial Times reports that Groupe Danone will launch Essensis, the first “cosmetic” yogurt, in France, Spain, Italy and Belgium during the first quarter of 2007.
Essensis will “nourish the skin from the inside” for people who eat it for at least a month, by using certain ingredients — including borage oil, vitamin E and antioxidants from green tea — to “feed the cells” of the surface layer of the skin, Danone reports.
The company projects sales of Essensis will reach 100 million euros (more than $130 million).