Kellogg Co., the Battle Creek, Mich.-based cereal maker that for decades has showered kids with breakfast concoctions such as Fruit Loops, is trying to entice adult palates with Whitney's Yogurt, a new premium-priced brand aimed at Yuppies.
Entering a field already crowded by more than 50 kinds of yogurt, Kellogg's marketing strategy is to lure status-conscious consumers by making Whitney's the highest-priced fermented milk money can buy. Already available in selected markets on the East Coast, Whitney's debuts in Southern California this month, selling for 83 to 85 cents for six ounces. By comparison, Ralph's Grocery Co. and Vons Grocery Co. house brands go for 37 cents for eight ounces.
Yogurt is still trying to establish a foothold in America, food experts say. While it has become an $840-million-a-year business, according to Kellogg, per-capita consumption of yogurt in America still lags behind Europe. That's despite attempts by marketers to entice consumers with yogurt-and-fruit combinations, yogurt ice cream and yogurt so runny it can be consumed through a straw.
Such products have fared better in California than they have elsewhere in the nation, according to the experts. However, Whitney's won't exactly have free reign to exploit the market here.
It will compete against Los Angeles-based Knudsen Corp., whose yogurts were among the first to enter the market here; Minneapolis-based General Mills Co. (1984 sales of $5.6 billion) which manufacturers yogurt on license from the French company Yoplait; and Chicago-based Beatrice Cos. (1984 sales of $9.3 billion), which owns Dannon.
Despite the competition, Michael Wolfe, president of Whitney's Foods Inc., the Kellogg subsidiary that markets the yogurt, expects it to capture at least the 10% market share the product has garnered in other regions where it is sold.
"Our product contains whole chunks of real fruit," Wolfe said. "We've been able to develop a richness in flavor.
"If you look at our stylized cup, it has a quality about it," Wolfe continued. "It's a designer-type of approach. . . . Like Jordache jeans, our product has an upscale look to it."