CATEGORY CLOSEUP: Bi-Lo Provides the Scoop on Frozen Yogurt

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CATEGORY CLOSEUP: Bi-Lo Provides the Scoop on Frozen Yogurt

Although according to Nielsen figures for the 52 weeks ending Sept. 6, 2008, dollar sales have gone up 4.5 percent, a unit volume dip of 1.5 percent means that the frozen yogurt segment has its share of challenges, as John Allen, category manager for frozen food at Mauldin, S.C.-based Bi-Lo, recently discussed with Progressive Grocer:

"We currently carry frozen yogurts in our own Southern Home label, Mayfield, Ben & Jerry's, and Edy's," noted Allen. "Our own brand, Southern Home, sells best (by more than double the next brand) in our stores."

Not surprisingly, the segment appeals to a more health-conscious crowd at the chain, he said. "Most folks who eat frozen yogurt are looking in the better-for-you category, and wanting the indulgence without the fat and calories. The demand index for frozen yogurt is highest with independent singles ages 35 to 64 in one-person households with no children, and senior couples with no children." To attract these customers, "[w]e advertise Southern Home frozen yogurts as its own segment rather than including it with our premium (full-fat) ice cream ads." As a result, the grocer has experienced "excellent growth [of] our private label."

Despite this successful effort, Allen admitted that overall segment growth has lagged that of the remaining market. "We are underdeveloped in private label, and do not carry as many SKUs of Edy's yogurts as some of our competitors, due to space constraints," he explained.

When it comes to frozen yogurt placement, Bi-Lo tends to group the healthier products together. "We merchandise our frozen yogurt by brand, but alongside the better-for-you items such as low-sugar, light, etc.," said Allen. "We are exploring the possibility of separating premium better-for-you (including yogurt) items from full-fat in the future."

Although probiotics are rapidly gaining popularity in the refrigerated yogurt section, there hasn't been much call for them yet in Bi-Lo's frozen departments, despite the fact that Edy's frozen yogurts contain probiotics. "The interest level from the consumers has centered around dairy yogurt, and we have had no requests in frozen as of this date," noted Allen.

One frozen yogurt innovation that's winning widespread customer approval, however, is slow churning, affirmed Allen. "Using the 'churned' technology with the frozen yogurt segment gives it a better taste and mouth feel," he observed.

As for the future, Allen believes that despite the segment's relative smallness, there's definitely room for expansion. "The frozen yogurt category only accounts for 8 percent of the total ice cream category, but is growing," he said. "As the emphasis on eating better continues to develop, I see an opportunity for growth in this category with additional flavors coming into the mix."