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New Petit Pot yogurt gains popularity thanks to glass jar packaging

Glass pots helped strengthen sales for French-inspired yogurt

It's a delicious dilemma that every food company would love to have.

Just two months after launching an entirely new line of high-end, set-style yogurts in big banner stores in Quebec, with plans to start shipping nationwide this week, dairy producer Laiterie Chalifoux is scrambling to meet consumer demand.

But it's not just the yogurts people are crazy about, it's the tiny glass pots they come in.

"It's almost unbelievable," said Martin Valiquette, general manager of the Sorel-based, family-owned firm. "The pots became collectibles almost overnight.  That's helped make sales very strong."

Demand for the bottles' lids has also exploded to the point where the company has set up a website on which hundreds of people are snapping up hastily-produced coloured lids daily at 25 cents a pop.

The company is now working with Quebec retailers in an effort to package and sell the lids as a separate product.

"We never imagined any of this," said Valiquette. "We invested very little in marketing for the launch.  We just sent out samples, got some press, and things went crazy."

According to Valiquette, the new Petit Pot line of set-style and organic yogurts were developed earlier this year in a new joint venture with French dairy producer Alsace Lait.

"With the new import quotas coming in for cheese and dairy, we wanted to launch some new products that would be hard to import or duplicate," said Valiquette, who joined Laiterie Chalifoux a year ago after working two decades for yogurt maker Liberté.

Alsace Lait, he added, was a natural partner because they were looking for new markets and, like Laiterie Chalifoux, have a long history in dairy innovation.

The two companies created four flavors of both set-style yogurt (plain, vanilla, lemon and coconut) and organic yogurt (nuts and three European-inspired-and-supplied fruits: rhubarb, fig and apricot, with real pieces at the bottom).

The yogurts are available in packages of four jars of 120g each, and retail for between $4.49 and $5.49.

A French-style cultured butter with a nutty flavour was also launched in August. Like the yogurts, the butter is in glass pots and is sold under Laiterie Chalifoux's Riviera brand.

For Valiquette, the use of small glass pots was intended to be a nostalgic nod to old-fashioned dairy product delivery.

However it was both a daring and costly decision. "It's very difficult to use glass," he said.

In addition to concerns over cleaning and recycling, he said quality assurance becomes a major issue.

The company notably purchased an X-ray machine that scans all product for broken glass before they are shipped.

"When you use glass you have to work in very restrictive conditions," said Valiquette.

Those production challenges, however, have been overshadowed by the stunning success of the product, which first appeared in Metro, IGA, Loblaws and Provigo stores in Quebec and Loblaws in Ontario. It's now rolling out at western retailers such as Choices Markets, Capers, Whole Foods and Thrifty Foods.

"This is going in a lot of directions we never imagined," said Valiquette. "It's a lot of work staying on top of it, but we're having a lot of fun."

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