Go-GURT’s 20 years on the go

Like a lot of food inventions, the story of how we created Go-GURT has many starts and stops.

The yogurt tube

The original idea is credited to Stephen Kaufman and Jim McGuire who, while working as food scientists at General Mills in the early 1990s, were the first to prove to their colleagues and managers that yogurt could be put into a tube.

The yogurt tube concept was on the market in Europe and Canada, but not the way we had in mind – with a thicker yogurt in an easier-to-eat-from tube that could be refrigerated, frozen, or thawed.

But Kaufman and McGuire’s idea, and at least one other attempt, was shelved before we eventually got Go-GURT to the grocery store shelf in a regional test in 1998.

Go-GURT is marking 20 years since its launch in the U.S., selling more than one billion tubes a year recently, so we wanted to highlight its origin story.

It started with the Fun Cone

While the tubular shape of Go-GURT is well-known after two decades on grocery store shelves, the original packaging design concept was a cone shape.

By the time Lisa Pannell joined the project, as a product scientist (now product design accelerator, in our One Global Dairy group) the team was full steam ahead on a concept referred to as the “Fun Cone.”

While the cone shape was innovative for the time and a focus-group favorite, issues with the packaging during distribution, plus material costs and waste after the yogurt was eaten led the team to look at other options.

Pannell talks more about the “fun cone” concept and how complications led the team to pursue tube-shaped packaging, in our podcast.

She says she enjoyed the research and development process of creating an on-the-go yogurt, and still feels a sense of pride when she sees Go-GURT on grocery store shelves.

“It’s really amazing when you’re working on a product and you can see that people are saying, ‘Oh, yeah, this is something I really need,’” Pannell says. “One of the most satisfying things about being a product developer is creating a product and then going to the grocery store and seeing it on shelf. And seeing how it integrates into people’s lives, how they use it and how they love it.”

A tubular take-off

Early commercials said Go-GURT was “the yogurt you squeeze and slurp, grab and glurp.”

One of the first Go-GURT promotions, in typical 90s fashion, was a free fingerboard-skateboard

The fact that no spoon or scissors were necessary was a huge hit with parents and children alike. And early focus groups with children proved that the “slurpy glurpy” tube yogurt was as fun as it was delicious and nutritious.

In 2000, TIME called Go-GURT “the fastest-selling yogurt product ever released.”

Early packaging and flavor innovations included Glo-GURT tubes with glow in the dark fortunes, Banana Split and Root Beer Float flavors in 2001 and fizzy-feeling Fizzix Go-GURT in 2009.

Go-GURT’s evolving innovations go beyond just improvements to the packaging, flavors are at the forefront of the brand’s focus to delight consumers.

While Strawberry and Berry are the top two Go-GURT flavors today, Cotton Candy and Sour Patch are also high on the list – and the brand just launched a Jolly Rancher flavor line.

“Last year, we dialed into this insight that people are buying more snacks that have unique flavors,” says Melissa Gallant, a senior marketing manager for Go-GURT. “So, we started to tie in some of those flavors. One of those was Sour Patch Kids – obviously a popular candy equity and something that moms knew their kids were going to love. It gave kids a lot of excitement because they felt like they got to eat candy, while mom knew that she was giving them something healthy. It’s a win-win.”
Yoplait recently made its way into another format that inspires yogurt to be eaten in an untraditional way. Go-GURT Dunkers combine crunchy graham sticks and creamy low fat Yoplait yogurt – available in Strawberry, Vanilla and Cotton Candy flavors – for a snack time slam dunk.

“Go-GURT Dunkers provide a different way of snacking, while also leveraging that kid independence that we have been standing for the last 20 years,” says Gallant. “It’s a fun new format that we can bring to the brand and we will continue to try to do that as other formats pop up that consumers are looking for in convenient snacking solutions.”

Beyond the physical shape of its packaging, Go-GURT also partners with brands like Disney and Nintendo to bring equity characters from movies and games to the yogurt tube. And Gallant says the brand has some fun activations planned for movies coming to theaters this year.

While Go-GURT’s story is still being written, the brand team is proud of its past and potential for the future.