Why Danone is becoming a flexitarian company

Danone's plant-based Actimel
Photos: RetailDetail

Danone is most famous for its dairy products, but is looking towards the future with a keen eye on plant-based products: "The future is flexitarian!"


Mission: sustainable

This week, the first bottles of the plant-based version of Actimel will appear in the supermarkets - following the example of Danio and Danette. It may seem remarkable that a dairy producer is making vegan versions of its flagship brands - especially since it already has its own vegan brand called Alpro - but according to BeLux country manager Nathalie Pfaff, Danone will become more and more a flexitarian company. This evolution fits the company's sustainable mission statement and the consumers' clear demand, she says.


"We have noticed that a growing number of consumers are flexitarian: young people most of all seem to be very aware of the impact of their choices - they think about their own health and about that of the planet. Hence the 'One planet, one health' vision Danone has developed, which sees dairy and plant-based dairy alternatives as complementary. We want to make it easier for people to make the flexitarian choice."


Growing market

Launching plant-based versions of well-known Danone brands is not a defensive move, Pfaff emphasises: "The plant-based market is growing fast, but it remains a small niche - just a few percent of the total European dairy market." Actimel, which claims to boost the immune system, has been an unsurprising grower during this Covid pandemic. Its plant-based version will also have the L.casei ferments, but is made of almond and oatmeal and comes in two versions: original and mango-passion fruit. While the regular Actimel drinks have been awarded Nutri-Score B, the plant-based version has received an A as it contains no lactose and, therefore, less sugar.


The plant in Rotselaar, near Brussels, received an investment of 10 million euros to turn an existing production line into one for plant-based actimel - thus becoming a 'hybrid' factory (one that produces both dairy and plant-based products". "A new sign of trust in our factory", director Jurgen Berckmans states proudly. To begin with, the plant will produce the plant-based Actimel for Belgium, France, Germany and the United Kingdom.


The Rotselaar plant wrote the first chapter in Actimel's history, already in 1994, and now produces the drink for consumers throughout Europe. A strategically important factory for the Danone group, it takes the lead in sustainability. Reusing three quarters of its water since building a new water treatment plant - saving 500 million litres of water annually.