Lactalis-Nestlé is investing £5m in Ski to allay fears that the future of the brand is in doubt following the axing of breakfast drinking yoghurt Ski Up & Go.
The product, one of the least overtly health-oriented in the sector, has been de-listed after just 18 months on shelf despite generating sales of £2.2m in its first seven months, making it the 10th bestselling yoghurt drinks brand last year [Nielsen MAT to 7 October, 2006].
Sales of the product, which replaced Stopgap - a line that ironically only lasted six months itself - are reported to have tailed off significantly this year.
The withdrawal sparked further concerns about the future of Ski. "Nestlé has seemed somewhat confused about what to do with the Ski brand. When it comes to marketing, it seems to have lost the plot," said Steve Discon, trading controller, Nisachill.
Although the product itself was "excellent", he said, sales had been slipping, partly because of the growing popularity of functional products in the sector.
However, Lactalis-Nestlé UK managing director Ronald Kers dismissed rumours Ski was in trouble as "total rubbish".
"Like all companies, Lactalis-Nestlé constantly reviews its product range and it is completely normal for products to be added or withdrawn from a company's product range from time to time. We are fully committed to the Ski brand."
He said it planned to spend £5m on support for the brand next year and was looking at introducing new Ski products.
"Ski is one of the original yoghurt brands in the UK and has huge resonance with consumers," said Kers. "In the past two months we have adapted our packaging to better meet consumer expectations and have also improved our value delivery, with the result of a 15% increase in product sales."
Ski has managed to stem last year's 16.2% drop to a 7.6% fall this year to £33m, according to Nielsen, [MAT 6 October 2007]. Sales were boosted by a £8m functional overhaul in April to better compete against lines with added benefits.