Tara, an Israeli dairy products company, assembles its marketing experts annually for a secret and closed-off meeting to discuss which products should appear on fridge shelves the following year. Tara is also signed on a licensing and know-how deal with Müller, a German based dairy manufacturer.
In one such meeting held three years ago, Tara marketers tried to come up with new and creative ways to stir up interest around their plain white yogurt.
The plain yogurt is considered a 'boring' product, usually bought by consumers aware of their health, who eat it as is or add fruit and cereal.
For the past few years, dairy companies have been trying to turn this yogurt from a 'healthy' product to a 'delicacy'. So they added coconut or fruit mousse, mixed it up with a variety of fruits or added vanilla concentrate.
In this way the plain yogurt, which is naturally sour, becomes sweeter and more delicate, helping dairy companies tap into healthy consumer base and sell more yogurts.
Tara factory (Photo: Assaf Shilo)
The Shavuot holiday is an annual holiday for the dairy manufacturers as well. Around this time of year dairy consumption breaks all records and milk products production plant invest the majority of their time in it.
At the Tara marketing meeting an exciting suggestion was thrown into the air: "Let's launch a special Müller yogurt for Shavuot that tastes like cheesecake."
After short deliberation, the suggestion was picked up and Tara began to think how to convince the international yogurt manufacturer to make such an Israeli product. Who in the world would want to eat a cheesecake yogurt?
Tara has an agreement with Müller in which the international dairy has to manufacture a number of products per year specifically for the Israeli market. After searching world wide, they discovered no Müller manufacturer has ever made a cheesecake yogurt, and so the Israeli and international development teams went to work.
At first, they needed to explain to the Müller people what this product was going to be and what the yogurt needed to taste like. It turned out that the Israelis' idea of cheesecake is completely different than thee rest of the world. The Israeli palate prefers a homemade cake taste, whereas the international palate leans towards a more industrial cake taste.
And so, in order to teach the Müller people what the 'right' taste was, Israeli cheesecakes were flown to Müller's international development center in Europe where scientists began to disassemble its components: The taste of the homemade dough and the taste of the baked cheese.
After a couple of months, different taste extracts, which were suppose to taste like real Israeli cheesecake, were flown to Israel. Tara experts mixed these extracts with the plain yogurt and gave it a go.
After the initial tasting round, Tara sent over their comments to Müller and awaited another extract delivery. And so, for about six months, extracts were sent to Israel until Tara decided that one particular extract is the perfect reminder of a real Israeli homemade cheesecake.
Next, the extract was manufactured commercially and sent over to Israel just in time for Shavuot 2009.
A couple of weeks before Shavuot, the yogurt was ready and shipped to the stores as a festive and limited holiday edition. But as it turns out the demand for the new yogurt exceeded all expectations and predictions, creating a shortage in the market and a rushed demand to send over more extracts to Israel.
The product, which was initially only suppose to be a Shavuot 'greeting', became a year round Müller product, even winning an inventiveness award for "Product of the Year" in the yogurt category. Müller in Romania have also looking into the possibility of manufacturing the Israeli tasting yogurt for their local market.
The writer is the editor of "Forum Publishing", which organizes the Product of the Year Awards in Israel.
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