Why it matters:
- Frozen novelty desserts have seen sales grow in double digits during the pandemic.
- Consumers are seeking better-for-you treats that offer rewards without the guilt.
- Against that backdrop, brands like Yasso frozen yogurt are eyed as a growth opportunity in the grocery business.
The pandemic has accelerated consumer demand for “permissible indulgences” in the grocery aisle, a food trend that connotes great-tasting treats with some better-for-you attributes.
That just happens to be the sweet spot for Yasso, which has been making Greek yogurt-based frozen novelties for more than a decade.
“That is the secret sauce to the brand — uncompromising taste and better-for-you nutrition,” said Craig Shiesley, CEO of the Boulder, Colorado-based company, in an interview with CO—.
Consumers are looking for comfort foods that make them feel good amid the COVID-19 crisis, he said, but at the same time they are also conscious of the perceived negative aspects of some of these foods, such as high fat or sugar content. (Each of Yasso’s frozen Greek yogurt bars contains between four and seven grams of protein and between 60 and 170 calories.)
The trends have been a boon for the brand. Yasso has projected sales of more than $150 million for this year and claims to be among the fastest-growing frozen novelty brands in the better-for-you frozen dessert aisle, the company says, citing IRI data.
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We believe there is a real opportunity to set the gold standard in snacking for taste and nutrition across the entire frozen aisle.
Craig Shiesley, CEO, Yasso
A pandemic lift: Sales of frozen ‘comfort’ treats reach $6.5 billion
Yasso’s growth comes amid a surge in frozen foods sales overall, but particularly in the ice cream and novelty categories. U.S. sales of frozen novelties increased 16.5% in 2020, reaching $6.5 billion, according to the American Frozen Food Institute’s Power of Frozen 2021 report.
“At-home comfort eating drove ice cream and frozen novelty gains in 2020 as consumers seek out ways to treat themselves from the safety of their homes,” Kaitlin Kamp, consumer insights analyst at research firm Mintel, said in a blog post. “But as consumers slowly emerge from the pandemic in 2021 with renewed health goals and financial concerns in mind, frozen treat brands will need to speak to indulgences differently—prioritizing value where possible and investing in better-for-you improvements to keep health-conscious consumers from cutting ties to the category.”
Yasso has successfully walked that tightrope between nutrition and indulgence for more than a decade, a feat it achieved by maintaining a steadfast focus on using only simple, wholesome ingredients and never wavering from its dedication to creating products with great flavor, said Shiesley.
“You have to stay within the guardrails of your brand from a nutrition and better-for-you standpoint,” he said.
Yasso has distribution in some 30,000 retail grocery locations and also offers direct-to-consumer sales through its website. Its products are manufactured by co-packers at several locations around the country.
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A multi-pronged growth strategy: retail expansion and incubating new brands
The company is pursuing ongoing growth in a variety of ways, said Shiesley. For one, it’s seeking to expand its retail presence, both by adding more retail stores to its customer base and by expanding the product assortment it offers through its existing retail partners such as Whole Foods and B.J.’s. In addition to its core line of frozen yogurt bars, it also added frozen yogurt sandwiches two years ago and this year is rolling out “Poppables,” which are a line of low-calorie frozen yogurt bites.
Yasso’s approach to expanding its product assortment includes incubating new brands internally that it can then roll out to retail stores. The company introduced the first of these new brands, Jüve Pops, earlier this year.
Jüve Pops are functional frozen fruit popsicles with reduced sugar and enriched with vitamins and electrolytes aimed to provide great taste and rejuvenation, Shiesley said.
“We believe there is a real opportunity to set the gold standard in snacking for taste and nutrition across the entire frozen aisle,” said Shiesley.
He said Yasso plans to pursue that incubation strategy wherever it sees a “white space” in the category. “The first consideration is, ‘Can we innovate and incubate our way into that white space with a new brand?’” Shiesley said.
Yasso employs about 50 people in what he described as a “highly talented organization.” For the incubation of new brands, the company is relying on the entrepreneurial skills of its founders, Drew Harrington and Amanda Klane, Shiesley explained.
Despite the supply chain challenges that many companies across industries are facing, Yasso said it’s on track to double its business within the next three years, excluding the addition of Jüve Pops.
Meanwhile, Yasso also continues to innovate with new flavors in its core product line. It recently added Birthday Cake as its 12th flavor variety, honoring the 10th anniversary of the company.
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Published October 12, 2021