Danone chairman Franck Riboud said at the group's third quarter results conference today that the Activia launch was planned for the start of 2006, and would be "the big big launch for Danone in the US next year".
The move comes following Activia's impressive peformance in 2005 as one of Danone's leading 'blockbuster brands'. Sales rose 30 per cent alone in the third quarter of 2005, partly thanks to recent launches in Poland, Turkey, Morocco and Argentina.
The group's other big probiotic dairy brand, Actimel, increased sales by 15 per cent in the third quarter.
Danone's plan to roll out Activia nationwide in the US next year is another sign that American consumers are waking up fast to probiotic products, which contain live bacterial strains considered to offer added health benefits to consumers.
Such products have so far experienced more success in other regions, such as Europe and Australia.
Yet, a report from the Business Communication Company in May said the US probiotic ingredients, supplements and foods market had risen 19 percent per year over the last two years. It forecast 2005 total sales to reach $764m.
Yogurts, kefirs and cultured drinks should make up around 65 percent of this total.
And the report added that, although growth is expected to slow over the next five years, an annual rate of 7.1 percent would put probiotic sales at $1.1 billion in 2010.
Most of the major dairy groups in Europe believe that probiotics will be one of the dairy sector's major growth drivers over the next few years, a view also shared by researchers and large ingredients firms.
Danone said Activia's rapid success in different markets was partly a result of the group getting its message across to consumers effectively. Activia products contain a unique bacterial strain called Bifidus Essensis, which the group says helps to improve digestion and keep the body healthy.
Riboud said Danone had already presented its Activia probiotic range to US retailers, and the firm should be helped in the launch by a partnership with number one food retailer Wal-Mart.
The group will, however, have to be careful not to repeat marketing mistakes made elsewhere when it launches Activia in the US.
Hungarian competition authorities fined Danone €40,000 last year for saying its Activia yoghurt range was a "rich source of protein, vitamins, calcium and phosphorous" - a claim that was rejected as unfounded by Hungary's National Food and Dietetic Institute.