Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Starbucks Tries Stirring Yogurt into Its Blend ; Partnership with Danone Seeks Common Ground in Globally Popular Food

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Starbucks Tries Stirring Yogurt into Its Blend ; Partnership with Danone Seeks Common Ground in Globally Popular Food

Article excerpt

The coffee shop chain and the French dairy powerhouse aim to sell jointly branded yogurts in U.S. Starbucks stores and supermarkets, and eventually go global.

Starbucks is taking on the thriving market for yogurt, teaming up with the French dairy powerhouse Danone to create a line of yogurts that will be sold in the coffee company's stores and in grocery stores.

To be called Evolution Fresh, Inspired by Dannon, the new products will capitalize on Danone's long history of making yogurt and the extensive reach of Starbucks.

"Yes, it is a new business channel for us, but I wasn't really looking at it because of business," said Franck Riboud, the chief executive of Danone Group.

"I was really looking to Starbucks because I love their community, the 70 million customers who visit their stores each week, and the way they attract and talk and listen to that community," Mr. Riboud said.

Yogurt is one of the hottest categories in food today, with new brands, flavors and permutations being introduced at mind-numbing speed, shaking up traditional players like Danone and Yoplait, which is owned by General Mills and the French dairy cooperative Sodiaal. Chobani, the company widely credited with awaking American interest in yogurt, did not even exist 10 years ago, and now its founder is a billionaire.

At a time when dairy companies are fighting over limited space on the refrigerated shelves in grocery stores, Danone's partnership with Starbucks offers the yogurt company a powerful new sales outlet.

Still, Americans consume far less yogurt than their European counterparts. The French, for example, eat about 73 pounds, or 33 kilograms, of yogurt per capita in a year, Mr. Riboud said, while Americans each eat an average of only 13 pounds.

That gap has convinced companies like Starbucks that as fast as yogurt sales have increased in the United States, there is still plenty of room for the market to grow.

"When I attended the natural foods show in Anaheim in the spring, I could not believe the ubiquity of yogurt brands," Howard Schultz, chief executive of Starbucks, said, referring to a California city. "And over the last 18 months, there has been an acceleration of yogurt sales in our stores that is bigger than anything we've seen in the past."

Harry Balzer, the chief food industry analyst at the NPD Group, has been calling yogurt "the food of the decade" for more than a decade. "Why yogurt is the food of the decade for that long is for this primary reason: You don't need to prepare it," Mr. Balzer said. "It can be breakfast, it can be lunch, and it is the fastest- growing dessert at dinnertime, but what's best about it is there is no cooking and no cleaning up involved, and that's exactly what Americans want."

Yogurt sales have grown quickly over the last decade. Packaged Facts, a market research firm, estimates that yogurt sales in the United States grew 6. …

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