Dannon probiotic yogurt sales up 16% despite claims crackdown

By Shane Starling

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Federal trade commission, Probiotic

Activia sales have risen 16% in 2010 despite Dannon modifying its digestive claims
Activia sales have risen 16% in 2010 despite Dannon modifying its digestive claims
US probiotics leader Dannon appears to have weathered recent class action and Federal Trade Commission (FTC)-led storms that forced it to alter gut health claims for its spoonable and drinkable yogurt, Activia, with sales rising 16 percent in 2010.

According to IRISymphony market data that includes supermarkets, drugstores and mass merchandise outlets but excludes Walmart, Activia sales reached $444m last year, compared to $383m in 2009 and $161m in its 2006 US launch year.

The regulatory and legal actions forced the subsidiary of French-based Danone to soften its claims, including the immunity claims being made for its drinking yogurt DanActive, but the essential Activia digestive health message remains intact – a message the sales figures indicate is resonating with consumers despite the negative publicity that surrounded the FTC action last year and the class action in 2009.

Business as usual

“After three rigorous reviews we continue to market the products as per usual,” ​Dannon spokesperson Michael Neuwirth told NutraIngredients-USA.com recently, while highlighting the fact Dannon admitted no wrongdoing in the settlement.

The FTC settlement that saw Dannon pay $21m to about 40 US states to reimburse claim investigations, highlighted Activia could only claim to, “relieve temporary irregularity or help with slow intestinal transit time” ​if it was also stated that three servings per day were required to achieve the benefit. The settlement also affirmed the need for at least two “well-designed” ​product-specific, clinical trials to back claims.

But current marketing for Activia is even softer than these claims, with digestive health suggested indirectly in statements such as: “Love the way you feel” and “Take the 14-day Activia challenge” which promises to refund the cost of the product if customers aren’t happy with it.

Dannon has been extending the Activia range with a dessert version launched last year and this year, a granola-blend aimed at the breakfast market called Parfait Crunch.

The FTC settlement can be found here.

The class action saw Dannon agree to modify claims and set up a $35m fund from which consumers could claim up to $100 but the majority of it is being paid to charities because consumers had only claimed about $1m.

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