Danone’s commitment to protein diversification is helping to move the world for farmed animals.
When it comes to our dairy portfolio, Danone North America cares very much about animal welfare and the cows we rely on for our milk and dairy products. We are committed to working with dairy farmers to create and manage systems where dairy cattle have the opportunity to thrive.
Danone, an iconic food brand that has been around for more than 100 years, doesn’t let its long history get in the way of innovation. When it comes to pushing the envelope and investing in the future of protein, Danone is a leader. You may have heard of some of their iconic plant-based brands, including Silk and So Delicious, but Danone has big plans to expand in the future.
To lay the groundwork in expanding in the plant-based space, Danone acquired WhiteWave Foods for nearly $12.5 billion in 2017 and announced a plan toinvest up to $60 million in WhiteWave’s manufacturing facility in Virginia, expanding the warehouse, increasing production capacity, and creating 49 new jobs. Since then, Danone has continued to invest in humane and sustainable proteins, including a range of delicious plant-based options.
We recently had the opportunity to interview Danone North America’s Senior Brand Manager of Plant-Based Food & Beverages, Irina Gerry, and learn more about the company’s vision for a humane and sustainable future.
Please tell us about the latest plant-based products from Danone North America?
Danone North America is a leader in plant-based food and beverage. In the U.S., we offer two core plant-based brands: Silk and So Delicious Dairy Free.
Silk is America’s No. 1 plant-based beverage brand and is known for bringing innovative plant-based beverages, creamers, and yogurt alternatives to the market. In 2020, we’ve launched some exciting products to market that go beyond our current offerings:
Culinary: Silk recently launched a Dairy-Free Heavy Whipping Cream Alternative – the first dairy-free / plant-based heavy whipping cream alternative available nationally in grocery stores. There is nothing like this on the market in the plant-based space; it’s truly a “pour and whip” experience. Silk Dairy-Free Heavy Whipping Cream Alternative whips like dairy and has 0g of sugar per serving. It also is keto-friendly*, gluten-free, and Non-GMO Project Verified. It can be used cup-for-cup in recipes, making it the perfect option for enhancing desserts, sauces, soups, and more – all without the dairy. We are excited about the opportunity for growth here with a truly new and innovative product that we believe our consumers will love in the culinary space.
*Not intended for medical use. If on a medically-prescribed diet, speak to your doctor before consuming this product.
Coffee: Silk has entered the ready-to-drink coffee market with expertly crafted, dairy-free lattes that bring the coffeehouse experience to your fridge. Silk Ready-to-Drink Lattes blend the smoothness of almondmilk with creamy oatmilk to create a rich, full-bodied latte that’s so good, you won’t miss the “moo.” Silk Ready-to-Drink Lattes have 80mg-95mg of caffeine and are free of gluten, cholesterol, and artificial colors and flavors. Available in Espresso and Mocha, both flavors blend high-quality, cold-brew Arabica coffee with rich espresso for a clean, sophisticated flavor.
Creamer: Silk recently launched our Dairy-Free Half & Half Alternative, which provides the neutral flavor and creamy texture that half & half lovers expect, but it’s plant-based. This is the first half & half alternative on the market to use oatmilk as part of its formulation, which offers a taste and texture that is reminiscent of traditional dairy milk. Each serving has 0g of added sugar, 1.5g of fat, and is free of dairy, nuts, artificial flavors, and cholesterol. It’s also keto-friendly*, Non-GMO Project Verified, and gluten-free.
*Not intended for medical use. If on a medically-prescribed diet, speak to your doctor before consuming this product.
Another area where we are excited to bring innovation is oatmilk. While oatmilk began in plant-based beverages, innovation will continue to fuel growth for oatmilk, and we are excited to take a leadership role here. Used as a great base for traditional milk-based products, we are helping to build up the oatmilk category with new options, including beverages, frozen desserts, yogurt, coffee, and creamers, from both Silk and So Delicious.
How many non-dairy products does Danone North America currently offer?
Plant-based products are one of the fastest-growing food segments, and the Danone North America plant-based portfolio includes beverages, creamers, yogurt alternatives, frozen desserts, cheese alternatives, and coffee – all from iconic brands like Silk and So Delicious Dairy Free. Across both brands, we have dozens of products – in an unmatched variety of formats – for every moment, lifestyle, and need. Several of Danone North America’s traditional dairy yogurt brands, such as Activia and Oikos, also offer plant-based options.
How many fully plant-based Danone brands are there?
In the U.S., we offer two core plant-based brands: Silk and So Delicious Dairy Free. Danone North America is also the parent company over Vega, our plant-based performance brand, which is based in Canada. Globally, Danone also houses Provamel and Alpro, based in Europe.
Please tell us about the key motivators behind Danone’s decision to invest in plant-based products?
From a consumer lens, there are many benefits to eating plant-based food & beverages for people entering and exploring the category. Some are following the latest wellness trends, always looking for new ways to stay on track and make progress. They incorporate dairy alternatives into their diets as a step toward their personal health and wellness goals, looking to reinvent their routine with new and interesting better-for-you products. Some choose dairy alternatives for dietary reasons, such as lactose intolerance. Consumers may be vegan, vegetarian, flexitarian, or just looking to lower their dairy intake, but always looking for delicious options that don’t compromise on taste and health—which is where brands like Silk and So Delicious thrive. Some consumers also opt for dairy alternatives to be mindful of our planet. Of note, a half-gallon of Silk takes 80% less water* to produce than a half-gallon of dairy milk. Silk also helps support trees, bees, and other pollinators.
*Based on a 2013 Water footprint assessment conducted by Silk for original soymilk, almondmilk, and coconutmilk using the Water Footprint Network methodology, ISO 14046 framework, and the average annual consumption of Silk by U.S. households
From an investment standpoint, consumers are demanding plant-based options across key grocery categories, which is reflected in double-digit growth in plant-based foods and beverages across the U.S.
What’s your favorite plant-based Danone product and why?
My family staple is Silk Soymilk, which we buy weekly. We also love Silk Soymilk Creamer and So Delicious Frozen Desserts. My family’s favorite frozen dessert flavor is So Delicious Salted Caramel Cluster Cashewmilk – which is also one of our top selling products!
What’s one plant-based product you wish Danone would create and why?
We’re constantly innovating with our Research & Innovation team! I have a few favorites coming out soon, but unfortunately, I can’t share the specific product details ahead of their launch. Stay tuned to see what innovations we bring in the coming year!
How has leadership at Danone embraced the decision to invest in plant-based products?
Danone has invested heavily in plant-based products with its acquisition of WhiteWave in 2017; the company understands the growth opportunities and the benefits of a plant-based diet. The leadership is very invested from a global perspective. In fact, Danone has a global goal to triple the size of its plant-based business by 2025.
How have consumers reacted to Danone’s decision to introduce more plant-based products?
Danone North America has the unique benefit of expertise in both plant-based and dairy products. In many cases, people enjoy both in their diets and refrigerators. We believe in making the highest-quality dairy and plant-based foods, so consumers can make their own informed decisions about the products they purchase. We are committed to continuing to innovate nutritious and delicious products that satisfy a wide range of consumer needs and tastes — from conventional to Non-GMO Project Verified to organic — and make it easy for consumers to enter the plant-based category.
What would you say are some of the biggest hurdles when introducing a new plant-based product?
Consumers in the U.S. continue to look for great taste and variety in plant-based food and beverages. Silk’s strong heritage and ability to deliver on taste has helped many make small steps of progress while transitioning to a more plant-based lifestyle. As the category continues to grow with new entrants, we have stayed true to our founding promise to make the world a healthier place. By offering consumers a broad portfolio of nutritious, great-tasting plant-based options, we are proud that we’ve maintained our position as the No. 1 plant-based beverage brand in America.
Alternatively, our So Delicious Dairy Free brand has allowed Danone North America to explore and win in new areas. So Delicious started over 30 years ago, with a mission to take dairy-free beyond the milk aisle and exceed taste expectations in something so indulgent and delicious as frozen desserts. So Delicious has been passionate about taste from the start, innovating in new categories and often launching new products ahead of its time, to introduce new consumers to the world of dairy-free deliciousness.
While we know the above drives, consumers to plant-based, we also know that taste and texture can be two of the biggest barriers for people considering plant-based options. With our dedicated research and innovation team, we continually take that into consideration during product development and are proud to offer great taste and variety across our products. In addition, while more people are gravitating toward plant-based diets than ever before, there is still a lot of opportunity to educate consumers about the benefits of a plant-based lifestyle. With brands like Silk and So Delicious serving as trailblazers in this industry, it’s also important to us to promote the nutritional value of our products and plant-based lifestyle benefits with consumers.
How does introducing plant-based products align with Danone’s sustainability and animal welfare goals?
Danone North America is the world’s largest certified B Corporation. B Corp Certification measures the overall positive impact of a business. A Certified B Corporation, like Danone North America, meets standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose. We take this responsibility seriously to ensure we’re using our business as a force for good, across our Danone North America brand, including dairy and plant-based options. As part of our B Corp commitment, Danone North America has rolled out regenerative agriculture practices across our dairy farms that help protect soil, water, and biodiversity and respects animal welfare. Our regenerative agriculture commitment acknowledges the key role of farmers and the positive impact of farming, while also taking into account its economic viability. It helps restore ecosystems, contributes to the mitigation of climate change, and ensures resilient agro-food systems to feed our next generations.
Do you foresee Danone introducing more plant-based items in the future? If so, is there anything you can share with us?
We are constantly innovating on our plant-based portfolio. You will definitely see more from Danone North America in the future! With the new year just around the corner, you can expect some of our newest innovations and products to hit shelves in January 2021. While we can’t share specifics now, we think you’ll like them!
Can you tell us about Danone’s animal welfare position?
Danone North America offers an extensive array of plant-based products for the many Americans who choose not to make meat or dairy part of their diet, or those that live a flexitarian lifestyle and are looking to decrease their meat and dairy intake. It is important to us that those making individual choices have quality, delicious options across both. When it comes to our dairy portfolio, Danone North America cares very much about animal welfare and the cows we rely on for our milk and dairy products. We are committed to working with dairy farmers to create and manage systems where dairy cattle have the opportunity to thrive. As part of this commitment, we have established an Animal Welfare Advisory Council made up of the world’s leading experts in dairy cattle welfare, which is helping us establish a best-in-class animal welfare program. We also work with third-party auditors to evaluate our farms, and our team of on-farm Quality and Care Specialists work with each farm individually to train and empower farmers to make meaningful, sustained improvements across their welfare initiatives.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Thanks for the opportunity to share details on Danone North America’s plant-based business!
Danone’s commitment to offering customers delicious plant-based options is great news for the billions of animals suffering at factory farms.
Reducing consumption of animal-based products has the potential to put an end to some of the cruelest factory farming practices, such as extreme confinement, the overuse of antibiotics, and brutal mutilations of farmed animals. By reducing the demand for these products, World Animal Protection expects that factory farming will be phased out. As overall demand declines, a shift towards family farming and practices that are more sustainable and kinder to animals will replace cruel practices.
What can you do to alleviate the pain animals endure on factory farms? By eating fewer animal products and only consuming those sourced from small family farms, you can help protect the planet, your health, and countless animals from needless suffering.
Join the global movement of people who are committed to creating a kinder future by pledging to #EatLessMeat today!