General Mills hopes for yogurt conquest with China debut of Yoplait


General Mills apparently thinks there's "gold in them thar hills" in China, at least where its yogurt business is concerned.

The Twin Cities-based food giant is introducing its popular Yoplait line in Shanghai on Monday, according to an announcement on its website.

The three new varieties – Perle de lair, Panier de fruits, and O'Fruit– arrive at an auspicious time in the world's most populous country, where yogurt is a $10 billion category, General Mills says.

What's more, sales for yogurt are growing at a "double-digit pace" in China.

According to the company, their rollout marks the largest expansion of Yoplait since General Mills purchased a controlling interest in the French brand in 2011.

“With the tremendous economic growth in China, consumers are increasingly demanding better quality and experience of foods,” said Gary Chu, an official with General Mills Greater China. “Chinese consumers like the health benefits of yogurt and we are thrilled to add Yoplait products to our growing portfolio of brands..."

Their sales strategy calls for a slow burn, with the products set for an eventual debut outside Shanghai on a "city-by-city basis," the Star Tribune reports.

Meanwhile, the Minneapolis / St. Paul Business Journal notes the Yogurt invasion is yet another step in General Mills's investment in China, with the company having opened a $15 million "Innovation Center" there last summer.

The Flavors

Described by the Business Journal as "tailored to Chinese tastes," the three flavors are hitting the shelves in convenience stores, supermarkets and hypermarkets, a term for combined grocery and department stores.

General Mills says Perle de lait is a thick and creamy "French-style yogurt," while the aptly named Panier de fruits falls into the "fruit on the bottom" category.

Lastly, O'Fruit is a "drinkable yogurt with big fruit pieces" requiring an extra-large sipping straw.

The company says they'll be produced at a facility in a Shanghai suburb under the same processes used in France.

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