If you or your kids are regular consumers of Dannon’s Danimals Smoothies, you’ve been taking in about 25 percent less sugar with each serving. Since February they’ve cut back the sugar in their kid-focused yogurt. They purposefully didn’t make a big deal about it as to avoid scaring off consumers.
It’s not the first time a brand has made a change to its formula only to reap the repercussions of consumers who prefer the status quo. McDonald’s faced backlash when switching from an animal fat frying oil to canola over concerns those world-famous fries would taste different. (Today their website boasts the use of a canola oil blend and that all fried foods on its menu are free of trans fats.)
And of course everyone knows the tale of New Coke, when the soft drink company reformulated its soda and became one of the most infamous marketing flops around. So changing something that wasn’t necessarily broken had to be done so in an exacting way by Dannon. It’s no surprise that the brand treaded these sugary waters carefully.
“One thing I have learned is that the main driver of yogurt sales above all is taste,” said Sergio Fuster, senior vice president for marketing at Dannon, to NYTimes.com. “You do not want to send any signal to the consumer that might lead her to believe the taste has changed because she will simply pick up another yogurt — and it may not be ours.”
Given that sugar is an empty calorie, an ingredient void of nutritional value, it’s a total win for consumers – which in the case of Danimals is kids. You’ll rarely find a mom who doesn’t want to reduce the sugar in her child’s diet, so from a marketing perspective, Dannon stands to make big gains in the business. Dannon reduced the sugar in Danimals from 14 grams of carbs to 10 grams, which comes out to a reduction of about 16 calories, according to Mary Hartley, RD, our resident nutrition expert.
It’s important for those label-reading moms to remember that Danimals, and any yogurt, will always have some sugar on the label. Milk is the primary ingredient in yogurt, which contains lactose. Hartley explained that an eight-ounce serving of milk has 12 grams of carbohydrate in the form of lactose. “And everything becomes more concentrated in yogurt,” she said. She also reminds that you have to account for any pureed fruit added to the yogurt plus the sweeteners in that final count.
For Danimals, “The serving size is four ounces and so I would expect six to seven grams of [carbs] from lactose and the rest from fruit and added sugar,” explained Hartley. That leaves just three grams of added sugar for the new formulation. Compared to some of its biggest competitors, the sugar reduction gives Dannon an advantage.
DANNON DANIMALS – 10g sugar / 3.1 oz. serving size
CHOBANI CHAMPIONS – 13g sugar / 3.5 oz. serving size
YOPLAIT KIDS – 9g sugar / 2.9 oz. serving size
STONYFIELD YOKIDS – 13g sugar / 3.1 oz serving size
It’s not all about the sugar though. Hartley suggested that parents pay attention to the fiber and protein on a yogurt package, too.
None of these aforementioned brands offer any fiber, including Danimals. Chobani leads on protein with eight grams and Dannon offers the least with two grams (this is based on the old label). Yoplait Kids and Stonyfield YoKids offer three and four grams, respectively.
Hartley also says you can’t solely base a decision on the live and active cultures either. Stonyfield leads that charge, noting six on its label, followed by Chobani, noting five. Hartley says, “two is enough.” Neither Dannon nor Yoplait note specific cultures on their label, each just indicating that the cultures exist in the product.
When it comes to buying yogurt for your child, a healthy food that should be a staple as it offers a great source of protein, makes a healthy snack, and promotes digestion, consider the sugar along with everything else. Added sugar should be low on the ingredient list; too early and its a major ingredient. You don’t want too many additives like dyes or flavors either. As with anything, you want it to be as natural as possible.
It does need to be said though that while Dannon is catching a wave of good press, like this story and that at NYTimes.com, because of the sugar reduction, they’re adding more sugar in other ways. If you visit the brand’s Danimals.com website, the featured product is “New Crunchers Varieties!”, a line of yogurt that includes candy sprinkles and chocolate candies. No good deed goes unpunished, right?