How Yogurt May Save Cereal Giant General Mills

PHOTO: Containers of Yoplait yogurt sit on the shelf, March 18, 2011, in San Rafael, Calif. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Containers of Yoplait yogurt sit on the shelf, March 18, 2011, in San Rafael, Calif.

Can yogurt save legacy cereal maker General Mills? The packaged foods maker is set to announce its second quarter earnings on Wednesday and its yogurt brands may bring some relief to its bottom line.

"Yogurt is an incredibly competitive space in the grocery store," Morningstar senior equity analyst Erin Lash told ABC News.

"It will take a few more quarters to judge if the growth is sustainable," Lash said.

Yoplait was introduced in the U.S. in the early 1970s. In 1977, Yoplait had 14 flavors. Today, there are more than 270 types of products, or SKUs, not just flavors, including Yoplait original, light, Greek, whip and children's yogurt.

In September, General Mills announced that Yoplait sales rose 1 percent, while its market share in the yogurt industry increased a half point to 24.4 percent. Today, the headline "Yogurt Is Pick-Me-Up for General Mills" described the Wall Street Journal's take on what is still a growing business. Analysts forecast a 2 percent decline in General Mills' overall revenue in the second quarter, according to Thomson Reuters, as other General Mills brands like Hamburger Helper and Betty Crocker age in American pantries.

In what may be an effort to stem the tide, General Mills is introducing next month a new Yoplait product, "Greek 100 Whips," taking strained Greek yogurt and whipping it into a yogurt "mousse."

PHOTO: General Mills announced a new Greek Whip product.General Mills
General Mills announced a new Greek Whip product.

"We are really excited to bring Greek 100 Whips! to market for the many consumers who want the benefits of Greek yogurt, like protein, but don’t necessarily love the texture or the taste," Joanna Hargus, new products marketing manager for Yoplait, told ABC News.

The eight flavors of the new line have been in development for about a year, but the company decided to fast-track it earlier this spring when General Mills tested the product and "knew this would be a big hit," Hargus said.

Meanwhile, cereal consumption remains in decline, given the vast number of options consumers have for breakfast, Lash notes.

PHOTO: Boxes of General Mills cereal are arranged for a photograph in Washington, Feb. 17, 2012.Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg/Getty Images
Boxes of General Mills cereal are arranged for a photograph in Washington, Feb. 17, 2012.

As Lash noted in her research note last month, "the onus is on General Mills and its category peers to tout the benefits of cereal not just at breakfast but throughout the day."

In touting the benefits of Greek 100 Whips, Hargus said, "Some consumers have referred to Greek 100 Whips! as 'bringing the trifecta' of protein, 100 calories and whipped texture that they love."

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