Twice a week after work, Senegalese webmaster Demba Gueye treats himself to a snack: a 10-cent tube of Dolima drinkable yogurt. It's a splurge considering his two-dollar-a-day food budget, and the 50-gram sachets are "teeny."
But the 25 year-old says they're delicious. "I'm crazy about it," he says.
In fall 2008, Mr. Riboud had dispatched Danone senior product manager Isabelle Sultan to Senegal to help Mr. Bathily put La Laiterie's products within reach of low-income Senegalese. Ms. Sultan, who worked on the marketing team for the premium Activia line, had been involved in the Bangladesh yogurt project.
Ms. Sultan proposed selling yogurt in a new way: a small 50-gram pouch that consumers could tear open to squeeze out the yogurt. Mr. Bathily set the price at 50 CFA, or 10 cents, a common coin denomination. A coin logo advertises the price on the bright green pouch, which bears no Danone branding.
Next, they gave La Laiterie's yogurts a local image, naming them "Dolima," or "Give me more" in Wolof, the local language. They splashed the red, yellow and green of Senegal's flag on the packaging to help illiterate customers identify it.
Finally, Dolima got a new recipe. Consumers had said La Laiterie's old formula was too acidic, too liquid and not sweet enough. So La Laterie added vanilla flavor to the existing "plain" and "sugar" lineup and thickened the yogurt for a creamier consistency.
With the smaller packages, Mr. Bathily was able to get his yogurt into corner shops for the first time. These cramped stores are often no bigger than a closet and stock the yogurt in a cooler behind the counter. He expanded his distribution from 500 stores in June 2009 to 3,500 stores by the end of the year. Every morning, dozens of women stop by La Laiterie's Dakar office to fill their portable coolers with yogurts to sell in school yards during morning recess.
Sales of La Laiterie's yogurts and milk doubled to more than 105 tons in December from 47 tons in July. Mr. Bathily and Danone expect the company to break even within two years.
Clearly, this is not an area where they'll be making record profits, but especially with many of these products being made locally, they probably do aid the growth of the region, and they provide Danone with a revenue stream and a foothold in what will hopefully be a growing market in the future as these countries emerge into better economic conditions.
I find this kind of thing just fascinating.
On a side note, one thing that struck me as odd glancing over the comments on this article was the number of readers who were indignat that Danone was encouraging poor people to "waste their money on packaged yogurt". There's some puritan impulse that sets people off, at times, at the idea that those with less money might "waste" their money on some tiny luxury.