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A new report by the brand calls for the backing of major supermarkets to revive sales

The war on sugar has wrongly “put yoghurt in the crosshairs” and could be encouraging children and their parents to dump “healthier” yoghurts for junk foods, a new report by Yoplait has claimed.

Children were increasingly being fed with ultra-processed, high energy, nutrient-poor foods such as biscuits and cakes instead of yoghurt, argued the report, authored by dietician Dr Carrie Ruxton and titled ‘Kids’ Yoghurt and Consumers, A Relationship Turned Sour’.

The scenario was playing out against the backdrop of a fall in awareness around the nutritional benefits of the products and a misplaced belief they were still high in sugar, it suggested – despite the yoghurt category’s work to reduce sugar in line with HFSS rules. A turnaround in sales required the backing of major supermarkets to promote the health benefits of yoghurt, it urged.

Over the past 10 years, the numbers of families in the UK had grown by around 5%, the report said, citing government data. But at the same time, household penetration of kids’ yoghurt and fromage frais had fallen by 2.6 points, it added, while total sales volumes had fallen by 11%.

That slump in sales is reinforced by the latest Kantar data [52 w/e 21 January 2024], which shows branded kids’ yoghurt volumes fell by 13.2% last year. Sales of key brands such as Petits Filous, Munch Bunch and Frubes also lost significant ground last year, according to data for The Grocer’s Top Products Survey.

“Young families are a big part of this decline, but kids are also reducing consumption and are even dropping out of the category altogether when they are older (at 8-9 years of age),” the report said. “By the time children reach adolescence, yoghurt has mainly lost its relevance unless it offers a functional benefit such as added protein.”

As a result of this trend, calcium intakes in children had fallen by 9% over a decade, with up to a quarter of children “not getting enough of this bone health mineral in their diets”, Ruxton wrote.

How have the HFSS rules changed yoghurts? Yoghurts category report 2023

A further 19% of four to 10-year-olds and 37% of 11 to 18-year-olds were clinically deficient in vitamin D by the time spring came around each year, the report added, before warning a continuation of the trend would have “devastating implications for children’s future nutritional status and bone health”.

“If the issue were simply all about sugar, we would see parents flooding back to yoghurt given that the category achieved the second-highest sugar reduction amongst food products monitored by Public Health England,” it said.

“Not only this, but we would also see parents buying fewer biscuits, cakes, and sweets as the sugar dial for these barely shifted. However, this didn’t happen, and parents actually bought more high-sugar food categories,” the report noted.

Ruxton argued the yoghurt sector should therefore do more “to highlight their contribution to protein, vitamin D and calcium – all of which support growing children”.

Kids’ yoghurt met what parents were looking for as an ‘ideal snack’, “being nutritious, tasty, filling and fuss-free”, Yoplait said. But despite this, “there is a worrying move toward more indulgent and nutrient-poor snacks such as biscuits and chocolate”. 

Yoplait’s mission, therefore, was to be “a positive voice for kids’ nutrition in the UK, as well as looking to work collaboratively with retail partners on re-engaging shoppers in this important category”.

An upturn in sales offered up a £150m sales opportunity for retailers over the next five years “if these alarming trends and issues can be reversed”, the brand added.

“We are appealing to retailers to work with us on our mission,” it urged.

“We believe children’s nutrition in the UK is in a perilous state and, unless there is positive change, it will have serious repercussions for generations to come,” said Ewa Moxham, UK head of marketing at Yoplait.

“Unlike most adult yoghurts, kids’ yoghurts are not just full of dairy goodness, they have also been fortified with essential nutrients such as vitamin D and calcium, which are important in supporting children’s bone health and development. Kids are missing out on the vital nutrients that yoghurt can provide due to incorrect assumptions that the product doesn’t have benefits.”

Yoplait wanted to be “the positive voice in providing guidance on the health credentials of the category”, she added.

“For 15 years, we have been leaders in the fortification of kids’ yoghurts with calcium and vitamin D. We believe in the power of nourishing young minds and bodies with wholesome and delicious food, and we understand that encouraging children and their parents to make the right food choices is not only important for their wellbeing, but also for their future.”

The report’s launch will be supported by PR, OOH advertising, social and digital campaigns and a mass sampling campaign, as well as in-store activations over the coming months.