- Danone will open its collection of 1,800 yogurt strains for research to mark the 100th anniversary of the development of its first yogurt. The move underscores the company's commitment to promoting open science and transparency in research, Danone said in a release.
- The French company will also grant access to its 193 lactic and bifidobacteria ferment strains at the Biological Resource Center of Institut Pasteur in Paris, as well as the more than 1,600 strains the company has collected at its research and innovation center.
- The first Danone yogurt was made in Barcelona in 1919 by Isaac Carasso, who wanted to do something about the poor gut health impacting children there. Since then, through research, innovation and collaboration with international researchers, Danone said it has put together a ferment collection of high genetic diversity that could have additional uses for other food and non-food products.
Many of these ferments haven't been fully explored, Danone said, and they might be able to address some of today's challenges regarding health, society and the environment. Opening up its collection of strains, including lactic and bifidobacteria ferments, which are special bacteria used to produce yogurts and fermented milks, could lead to the discovery of additional uses for both food and other applications.
The company predicted that these strains may do things like increase the diversity of natural fermented food products, develop higher value-added dairy products, limit crop and food losses by preventing fungi, bacteria and viruses, regenerate soil, mitigate methane emissions from cows, and reduce antibiotic use in animals and humans.
If this access can help researchers develop a new and useful product, Danone might be able to get it produced and marketed, which could be cost efficient and faster than a new entity building a brand from scratch. It could also enhance Danone's linkages with scientific partners for additional research in the future.
Danone needs to keep diversifying since unit sales for its brands, plus those of competitors including General Mills, Fage International and Noosa Yoghurt, declined through March of this year — potentially because the plethora of options gives consumers "yogurt fatigue." New ideas and brand new functionality can keep the company at the top of consumers' minds, especially as consumers want to use food to improve their health. According to a report from Grand View Research, the global functional food market was worth about $161.5 billion last year, and is projected to increase at a compound annual growth rate of 7.9% during the next six years.
Besides the potential for new Danone-related products, encouraging research could help boost Danone's profile as a company concerned about improving diet and the human gut. Danone Nutricia Research recently teamed up with the Center for Microbiome Innovation at the University of California-San Diego to explore the connection between the diet and human gut through The Human Diets & Microbiome Initiative.
These initiatives support Danone's goal to be among the first multinational food companies to earn a global B Corp certification, which tells consumers the company is adhering to a set of transparent standards and values. The company said 11 of its corporate entities — including Danone North America — and more than 30% of global sales now have that certification, but it wants the entire business to have it by 2030.
Health-conscious and environmentally concerned millennials — many of whom have increasing spending power — are more likely to go out of their way to do business with companies that reflect their values. By opening its strain library to more researchers — and potentially more wellness-related breakthroughs — Danone may gain millennials' loyalty.