Danone targets plant-based ‘fence sitters’

BROOMFIELD, COLO. — Danone North America is taking a “taste first” approach to dairy-free innovation to bring more consumers into the plant-based fold.

The company this summer recorded its sixth consecutive quarter of double-digit growth across its plant-based portfolio, but opportunities remain to attract the 60% of consumers that are not in the category, said Kristina Cole, chief customer officer at Danone North America.

Launching in January 2020, new Silk Nextmilk and So Delicious Wondermilk were designed to close that gap between traditional dairy drinkers and plant-based beverage consumers.

“One of the things that we are really focused on is the future of plant-based food and beverages,” Ms. Cole said. “We know that there is a significant opportunity to increase household penetration and awareness around plant-based beverages, and also be able to provide the nutritional benefits.”

Silk Nextmilk and So Delicious Wondermilk will launch in whole-fat and reduced-fat varieties at grocery stores and natural channels nationwide for a suggested retail price of $4.99 per carton. The dairy-free beverages don’t taste like any specific plant-based ingredient, such as oats or almonds, according to the company.

Danone North America also plans to introduce a line of So Delicious Wondermilk frozen desserts in vanilla, strawberry, cookies and crème, buttery pecan and chocolate cocoa chip varieties. 

“This new platform provides a unique mix of plant-based ingredients to deliver the ultimate dairy-free experience,” Ms. Cole said. “Smell and taste have always been a barrier, so how do we work to innovate to meet the needs of taste and nutrition? We believe that this launch is going to do that. We’re working to address the fence sitters, the people that haven’t engaged in plant-based yet but want to.”

Taste and nutrition also are driving innovation across Danone North America’s yogurt business. The company earlier this year launched Oikos Blended Greek Nonfat Yogurt, which features 50% more fruit than previous varieties. Another new item is Oikos Pro, a protein-packed yogurt that is free from added sugars and artificial flavors.

“Oikos Blended Greek Nonfat Yogurt has an over-the-top creamy texture and taste,” Ms. Cole said. “Each cup of Oikos Pro yogurt contains 20 grams of high-quality protein, which equates to 40% of the daily recommended value.”

Along with preventative health, food safety is an important consideration for consumers as the COVID-19 pandemic continues and the flu season approaches. Building strategies that consider different commercial environments is key to tackling those concerns, Ms. Cole said.

 “We are looking at the role of innovation in meeting the needs of consumers in the away from home space,” she said. “One specific example is that we have essentially gone to touchless creamer options. We have bulk creamer machines that you’ll find in convenience stores.”

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