UPDATE: May 13, 2019: Mariano Lozano, who previously was CEO of Danone North America, has been appointed senior vice president of Danone North America's COVID Emergency Rescue Team in addition to his responsibilities working across the company's North American business units.
- Danone announced that Shane Grant will become the CEO and executive vice president of its North America business starting May 11, according to a release. Grant comes from the Coca-Cola Company, where he was most recently the president of the non-carbonated beverages business unit. He replaces Mariano Lozano who was previously in the position.
- Danone's North American sector includes its Essential Dairy and Plant-Based (EDP) business, which is Danone’s largest business and the world’s biggest B Corp. Along with the appointment of Grant to CEO, the EDP business will begin operating separately in North America.
- In conjunction with these changes, Danone will create a Plant-based Acceleration Unit to expand the company into new categories, such as coffee, baby food and healthy aging solutions.
As North America continues to contend with the upheaval resulting from coronavirus, Grant will be stepping into uncharted territory when he takes on his leadership role as the head of Danone’s North American business unit.
Over the last few months, panic buying and foodservice closures have changed the retail landscape and affected companies of all sizes. In Danone's first quarter earnings report, North America's EDP business saw a 4.6% increase in sales that the company attributed to a shift to at-home consumption and pantry stocking. Plant-based options like Silk experienced particularly large growth numbers.
So why shift leaders now? Grant’s experience in Coca-Cola's non-carbonated beverage division could be beneficial at Danone as the company seeks to expand into categories such as coffee and augment its plant-based offerings that include beverages like Silk and drinkable yogurt. At Coca-Cola, beverages like coffee, dairy and plant-based beverages were under Grant's purview and the sector saw growth under his leadership as the soda giant worked to expand into better-for-you beverages.
In Coca-Cola's latest earnings report, it reported "solid growth" in the dairy and plant-based dairy category, which includes Fairlife. With his familiarity in the beverage category, Grant is positioned to help Danone North America expand its market share for brands like Horizon organic milk and plant-based options including Vega, So Delicious and Silk. Danone is aiming to globally triple its plant-based business from $1.9 billion in sales in 2018 to $5.7 billion by 2025.
The company is also embarking in a new North American-centric strategy. Danone Chairman and CEO Emmanuel Faber said in a release that North America is now entering into "a lasting COVID-19 recovery phase" and noted that a regional focus, such as the one that the company's EDP business is taking, will be instrumental in adjusting Danone's strategies to adapt to local policies as quarantines begin to ease.
By announcing that its Essential Dairy and Plant-Based business will operate separately from its French parent company, Danone is offering the business the flexibility to cater to regional consumer tastes. A regionally focused approach has proven to be successful for other large companies in the past. Last year, Nestlé restructured its Nestlé Waters arm to be managed regionally. It also restructured its infant nutrition arm by geography and reported that the move drove growth for the company.