Problem Solved: Tree Island Gourmet Yogurt plants a new strategy

A yogurt company aims to stir things up—but not too much—with its brand extension


We are developing a plant-based yogurt to extend our dairy brand. How do we position our products so the plant-based yogurt is viewed as neither a lesser option for non-dairy eaters who have no alternative, nor as superior to dairy? We hope the same consumers will buy both styles to enjoy at different times.”

—Scott and Merissa DiGiustini, owners, Tree Island Gourmet Yogurt, Courtenay



Tree Island has built its brand around values: delicious products with non-traditional flavours made with super-high-integrity ingredients that are as local and sustainable as is possible. There is no reason this approach needs to change as they take on the non-dairy category. “The trick is not to position it as an alternative but rather as a product that is totally awesome in its own right. If you take a look at the ice cream category, you will notice that in the past year or so, Häagen-Dazs, Ben & Jerry’s and Breyers have all launched non-dairy versions of their most popular flavours. And the perennial favourite in the non-dairy dessert category, Luna & Larry’s Coconut Bliss, has built a cult-like following as an ultra-decadent dessert. I don’t feel like there is a huge risk of negatively impacting their current line, and if Tree Island applies the same high standards and ingredient integrity, and the result is as delicious as their dairy yogurt, I think they will do just fine.”   

—Brian Saul, co-founder and creative director, Fluid Creative, Vancouver


Schneiders, a meat company that’s been around for more than 100 years, got into the meat alternatives market with a brand called Oh Naturel! It originally positioned Oh Naturel! as a sub-brand but has now removed Schneiders references altogether. With any product that comes out, differentiation, and understanding who your target market is, is key. If Tree Island has a different consumer in mind, or customers wanting to vary their diet, it will need core messages aimed at that target audience. To market to its existing consumers, if it’s about being innovative and providing differentiation and broader choice and broader selection, that could work. There are probably several options: “They can differentiate themselves just by doing something different and focus more around the innovation aspect, and then while doing that [also] provide an option for consumers that maybe normally wouldn’t even eat their products at all.”

—James Donaldson, CEO, BC Food Processors Association


The brand strategy and point of difference needn’t be negative compared to Tree Island’s grass-feddairy-based Cream Top or rich Greek-style yogurt. The question is what they are going to be the best at. Is it going to be the best-tasting of the plant-based yogurts? If so, it’s not enough to just say that it’s the best—it must actually be true. This can be demonstrated in taste tests or as a choice from chefs who truly believe that it’s the best-tasting or the creamiest of the plant-based. Tree Island can also enter it in food competitions or get testimonials from real consumers. “But you want to have some really credible reasons to believe the difference and why the product is better. That will allow it to compete with the plant-based competitors but also give it a really nice positioning versus their [dairy-based] gourmet yogurts.”

—Jenny Dickson, instructor, marketing and behavioural science, UBC Sauder School of Business

If your company has a problem that you’d like some feedback on from real experts, email associate editor Felicity Stone at