Over the past two years, frozen dessert brand Pro-Yo has seen sales of its line of high protein, probiotic enhanced “smoothie tubes” grow rapidly into roughly 1,600 stores nationwide. But founder and President Nathan Carey knew the brand could go farther with a new line.
The company announced Thursday the launch of its newest addition to the ProYo family: high-protein, low-fat ice cream in pints. With an MSRP of $5.49 and seven flavors, Carey feels he’s hit the sweet spot, telling NOSH that the brand has signed several “tier one” national retailers that will be announced at Natural Products Expo West and help raise the pint’s total retail presence to 2,000 stores by early spring.
The response from buyers so far has been strong. “Going directionally for the pint was a huge move. I can’t tell you how much it’s changed the conversations [with buyers] I’ve had,” Carey told NOSH. “You don’t have to explain anything, it’s a known category.”
Buyers, he said, see the pint set, particularly with better-for-you offerings, as a growing category; meanwhile, novelty sales have declined. Key players such as Arctic Zero, Halo Top and Enlightened have brought new consumers to the aisle, Carey said, yet none of the these offerings focus on another popular trend: high protein.
The Pro-Yo pints will offer 35 grams of protein per pint, with 120 calories per serving and 3.5 servings in a container. While the protein has carried over from the smoothie tubes, the addition of probiotics has not.
“It wasn’t worth the potential hurdles to keep the probiotics in there,” Carey said. He noted that the feedback from buyers was that the term was associated with yogurt, a category they found less attractive and compelling.
ProYo also focused on taste and texture in the development of the ice cream. “When you take the bulk of the category for the good for you set, no one has really honed in on sensory feel yet. A lot of times they’ll have the flavor pretty close, but there’s nothing (I would say personally) owns it on a direct comparison to ice cream,” Carey noted. “Pro-Yo is real ice cream.”
In addition, the ProYo team developed the product to be scoopable straight from the freezer, removing the wait time required by other low-fat ice creams and yogurts.
Attendees of last year’s Expo West may remember ProYo debuting a multipack of three smaller cups of high-protein, frozen yogurt (essentially the smoothie tubes in cup form) that would retail for $6.99. But after speaking with buyers and the company’s new sales team from Ignite Sales Management, which includes veterans from Talenti ice cream, Carey said the concept was scrapped. The feedback was that another novelty product, especially at a higher price point, wasn’t as powerful as the pints.
For now, ProYo expects to sell both the smoothie tubes and pints, but that may change over time.
“Our main emphasis will be on the pints and moving into low fat ice cream, but at this current time the plan is to keep both lines moving forward,” Carey said. “However, we’ll see which one slugs it out quicker and depending on that, most likely we’ll move in one direction or the other.”
Like the smoothie tubes, ProYo will still emphasize the many use cases for the ice cream, — ranging from straight consumption to smoothies — and plans to target the millennial, health conscious consumer. While gym-goers have rapidly taken to the ProYo, Carey said he knows the product needs to appeal to a wider audience.
Carey said working through the product’s development helped him learn how important feedback can be to the process.“You can like something and you can even love it, but just because you like something and love it doesn’t mean everyone else is going to like it and love it,” Carey said. “You really have to listen to the feedback from the consumer, from the buyer, from the trade and melt that into a pot and decide which direction you want to go.”