Hefty spends by the big players boosted growth in yoghurts and pot desserts but NPD was quiet and organics suffered

Yoghurt and pot dessert growth was healthy last year, up 4.5% to nearly £2bn. And, although much of the growth was inflation-driven, volumes were up by 1%, boosted by continued aggressive promotional activity. “Consumers are trading into promotional deals at an unprecedented level and, in the short term, they will continue to,” says Matt Hood, senior buying manager, dairy, Tesco.

Sales were also boosted by big players ploughing millions into advertising. Müller, for example, invested £30m. But NPD was thin on the ground as suppliers concentrated on range extensions. Brands performing particularly well include Danone’s Activia, Müller’s Little Stars and Lactalis Nestlé’s Munch Bunch and Aero brands, which were up 32.6%, 22.2%, 33% and 75.2% respectively.

The impressive performance from Aero, which benefited from new flavour launches, saw the chocolate mousse enter the table at 18th, pushing out Alpro Soya.

Lactalis Nestlé had more reason to cheer, as its Ski brand, which has struggled for years, appeared to turn a corner by “going back to basics”. The once-household name was relaunched in October 2008, including removing the Activ8 tag and scrapping the combination of eight vitamins and minerals in favour of an all-natural recipe. As a result, the previous year’s 20.7% drop in sales turned into 2.4% growth.

It was not such good news for organic brand Yeo Valley, which was down 12.4% in value. Indeed, it was a tough year for the overall organic yoghurt and pot desserts category as cash-strapped consumers moved away from higher-priced items. “The biggest-single area of decline has been organics, says Hood. “The sector has been hurt by promotions becoming so strong, which has resulted in consumers switching between organics and standard depending on the strength of the deal.”

Rachel’s, however, bucked the negative trend with sales up 9.2%. It was boosted by distribution gains and strong performances by its Luscious Low Fat and Greek-style yoghurts and its Divine Rice pot desserts.

Only five of the top 20 brands are pot desserts, four of which generated growth – Cadbury (made under licence by Müller), Müllerice, Aero and Gü. The only one to disappoint was Müller Amoré, down 12.4%. Love hurts.

Top launch: Frü Cheeky Little Key Lime Pies, Rensow Patisserie

Don McLean sang “Bye Bye Miss American Pie” but he would have said “hello hello” to Frü’s key lime pie, which it added to its luxury chilled desserts menu in September. Inspired by the classic American dessert, Frü Cheeky Little Key Lime Pies offer a biscuit base covered with a layer of lime curd and topped with lime-spiked fresh cream cheese. They are available from Waitrose and come in packs of three 45g pies for £1.99.

Top Products Survey 2009