INTERVIEW-General Mills may expand yogurt business overseas

NEW YORK, July 9 Tue Jul 9, 2013 8:56pm IST

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NEW YORK, July 9 (Reuters) - As General Mills Inc rolls out a new Yoplait Greek yogurt in the United States, it is also thinking about expanding abroad, its chief executive officer said on Tuesday.

Yogurt is a roughly $65 billion market worldwide, and the controller of the Yoplait brand is studying how it might enter other markets, including China and India, General Mills CEO Ken Powell told Reuters.

Yogurt is an "adaptable food" that can be easily tailored to suit local consumer tastes, he said.

Rival Danone recently announced a joint venture with China Mengniu Dairy Co to develop chilled yogurts in China, Hong Kong and Macau.

General Mills already has a joint venture with Nestle that sells breakfast cereal internationally. A separate venture with Japanese partners operates Haagen-Dazs in Japan.

Powell would not say which market was at the top of his list for yogurt, but General Mills already has a sizeable presence in China with its Haagen-Dazs ice cream stores. It expects to open around 70 new ones there this year, which would bring the total to roughly 250.

"We have lots of dairy expertise, which allows us to think pretty broadly about other opportunities," Powell added.

In the meantime, the company is focused on rolling out its new Yoplait Greek in the United States and Liberte Greek in Britain.

Yoplait has nearly a 24 percent share of the U.S. yogurt market, which is worth $7 billion, according to research firm Euromonitor International. The company is working to boost its share in Greek yogurt, which accounts for more than 40 percent of the market. (Reporting by Martinne Geller in New York; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)

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