Breyers Yogurt Names James Nolan CEO


Breyers Yogurt Company, LLC has named James W. Nolan as CEO.

Nolan succeeds Chuck Marcy, CEO since 2005, who has decided to leave "to pursue outside interests," according to the company. In the announcement release, Marcy expressed pride in the "significant progress the company has made" and confidence in its future success under Nolan's leadership.

Nolan is joining Breyers Yogurt from Sara Lee, where he has served since 2007 as EVP of Sara Lee Corp. and CEO of its $2-billion Sara Lee Fresh Bakery division. Sara Lee had announced Nolan's resignation, effective April 9, to pursue another professional opportunity.

Nolan joined Sara Lee in 2005 as a corporate SVP and CEO for its now $2.1-billion food service division, where he helped drive revenue and margin growth by introducing sales, marketing, supply chain and consolidating strategies. Nolan's three decades of food industry experience also include executive positions at PepsiAmericas, Inc., including EVP, U.S. operations, and chief sales and market development positions at PepsiCo, Inc.



The Breyers yogurt brand was owned by Kraft Foods until it sold the Breyers cultured-products unit in 2005 to Canada's CoolBrands Dairy Inc., having already sold Breyers ice cream to Unilever N.V. (Breyers continues to be a registered trademark owned and licensed by the Unilever group of companies.)

Marcy left a CEO post at Horizon Organic Holding Corp. after its sale to Dean Foods in 2004, and formed Healthy Food Holdings with Greenwich, Conn.-based private equity firm Catterton Partners, which acquired YoCrunch in 2005 and CoolBrands in 2007. The YoCrunch and Breyers/CoolBrands businesses were combined to form Boulder, Colo.-headquartered Breyers Yogurt.

Breyers is the largest independent branded yogurt company in the U.S., with traditional strength in fruit-on-the-bottom and light varieties. But with sales of approximately $200 million last year, it holds a distant third place to Groupe Danone's Dannon and General Mills' Yoplait. Dannon and Yoplait together account for about 70% of total U.S. yogurt sales.

The $4.5-billion yogurt category continues to show healthy growth, although it may have slowed a bit last year. Mintel International reported 2.8% growth across FDMx retail channels in 2009, compared to compound annual growth of 6.5% between 2004 and 2008. Nielsen data show refrigerated yogurt sales in supermarkets having gained 4.8% in dollar sales, and 4.7% in volume, during the 52 weeks ending Dec. 26, 2009, according to

General Mills reported a 14% sales jump for its Yoplait division in fiscal 2009, including an 18% jump for Yoplait Light, and a 2% gain in fiscal 2010's third quarter. 2010 launch rollouts include YoPlus probiotic yogurt, Yoplait Delights and Yoplait Greek-style lines.

Danone's $1 billion-plus U.S. Dannon unit saw flat sales in first-half '09 but a 15% sales gain in the second half, after cutting its prices by 3% to 5%, Dannon CEO Gustavo Valle reported at a recent Reuters Food and Agriculture Summit. Dannon sales have continued to grow at about 15% this year, and the company expects double-digit growth on a long-term basis, driven by doubling its per-capita yogurt consumption in the underdeveloped U.S. market, Valle said, per Reuters.

Dannon's marketing strategy has shifted from a recent-years' focus on Activia to supporting the full portfolio, including Light & Fit (with current TV spots featuring Heidi Klum), Dannon and Danimals, Valle confirmed.

The Breyers Yogurt portfolio includes Breyers Fruit-on-the-Bottom, Breyers Light, Breyers Disney, and Breyers Inspirations yogurts, in addition to its YoCrunch sub-brand lines. YoCrunch is the leading brand in the "indulgent" niche (low-fat yogurt with mix-in toppings), according to the company.

Last summer, Breyers expanded its Breyers Light line with dessert-themed flavors such as Strawberry Banana Split and Cinnamon Bun.

In February, the company accelerated its push for share with a national retail rollout of YoCrunch 100 -- a single-serve, 100-calorie pack line featuring crunchy toppings such as M&M's and chocolate cookie pieces that was the first to use Cargill's Truvia, a natural rebiana sweetener derived from the stevia plant.

"Offering consumers a calorie-controlled yogurt without artificial sweeteners is an important addition to Breyers Yogurt's unique positioning in the growing snack category," Marcy said in announcing the YoCrunch 100 rollout. That product's limited, East Coast introduction in January 2009 had resulted in $20 million in sales in a single year, Marcy told in an interview in February.

Breyers Yogurt's game plan, led by YoCrunch 100, is to make its yogurt an afternoon/early evening snack option, distinct from YoPlait's and Dannon's dominance of morning daypart consumption. "We think we have a market niche," summed up Marcy.

Prior to Horizon and Breyers Yogurt, Marcy served as president of Quaker Oats' Golden Grain Division and marketing director at Kraft General Foods, among other positions.

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