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Danone is going to focus on its alt-dairy portfolio as part of its new “plant-based 2.0” platform, revealed Shane Grant, the company’s interim co-CEO, during its latest earnings call. The platform is set to launch in the second half of 2021, as the firm continues to ramp up its vegan offerings amid record sales in the category.
The new “plant-based 2.0” platform will see “dairy-like technology” used to improve Danone’s vegan dairy range. Grant, who is also chief of the company’s North America business, said during the call that the platform will help revamp the firm’s vegan dairy offerings and differentiate its products from rising competition in the space, such as players like Oatly and Califia Farms.
Revamping plant-based milk
Danone owns several plant-based dairy brands that produce oat, almond and soy milk, as well as coconut oil-based cheeses and spreads. Using new “dairy-like technology”, the firm will make key improvements to the taste and texture of these products.
The tech is set to launch under its subsidiaries So Delicious’ Wondermilk and Silk’s NextMilk within North America, and under Alpro for European markets. Oat Yeah, the oat-based dairy beverage brand under Silk, will also be entirely revamped with its 2.0 plan.
Silk, a legacy vegan brand, will undergo these changes to keep it relevant to consumers, Grant explained. The brand, which is best known for its almond-based milk, is going to be the core for Danone to attract new mainstream consumers. Customers not familiar with vegan dairy may be more likely to try out almond milk, which has been on the market for a long time, rather than newer ones that may incorporate peas or cashews.
Grant mentioned that “while we might consider plant-based beverage to be very developed, there’s still 60% of users that are not in the category” and added that it presents an “opportunity…to really step up the growth of the segment overall and then our opportunity to really lead it.”
Alt-dairy to have ‘big impact’ in 2022
Danone’s chief explained that plant-based dairy will be the focus of the company’s growth because it’s going to be the driving force behind meeting its sales target for the sector. Last year, the company announced its plan to double its vegan sales to $5.4 billion by 2025.
The “plant-based 2.0” beverage plan will be launched on a large scale within its North American business by the end of 2021. Grant believes it’ll “have a big impact going into 2022” to ramp up the sector’s sales. Vegan dairy has already pushed Danone’s plant-based sales significantly, with the overall vegan food category recording its sixth consecutive quarter of double-digit growth, according to its latest figures.
But with rising competition in the space with startups like Oatly and Califia Farms, as well as other big food companies like Nestlé vying for market share, Grant says that it’s important to keep innovating.
“So we continue to stay very assertive on providing points of differentiation in that segment. And you should expect more on that to come certainly in the U.S. later this year and into ’22.”
Yogurt, creamers, ice cream, cheese
While plant-based milk will still be the biggest segment of its vegan dairy business, Danone made clear that it’ll also innovate other dairy alternative products. Dairy-free yogurt, cheese, creams, spreads, and dressings were some of the categories named.
“These segments are some of the fastest-growing,” said Grant. “They have emerging scale and, in some segments, similar or larger addressable markets versus milk.”
Earlier this year, Danone made moves in this direction with its acquisition of Earth Island, the company behind the iconic vegenaise brand Follow Your Heart. It came shortly after it decided to expand So Delicious’ vegan cheese range, revamping its existing vegan cheese “shreds” product and adding cream cheese spreads and sliced cheeses to the line-up.
Just last month, Alpro expanded its range with new Greek-style vegan yogurts, launching two new oat and coconut-based varieties.
“With Silk, Alpro, So Delicious and now Follow Your Heart, we have the leadership positions for continued scale and acceleration here,” the co-CEO shared.
All images courtesy of Danone.