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News briefs: Starbucks, Danone and Unilever hostage scare

By Neil Merrett , 18-Jan-2008

This week, Starbucks drops organic milk form its US stores, a Unilever manager is held at his own plant by angry workers and Danone teams up with its suppliers to improve operational efficiency.

Organic milk off Starbucks' US menus

 

US-based coffee group Starbucks says that it will be removing organic milk from it stores from this month after completing plans to readjust the group's US dairy supply chain.

 

 

 

The company has been offering organic milk as an optional choice to its customers since 2001 as part of its policy to provide an alternative for its default milk, which contained the synthetic growth hormone rBGH. However, the company says that rBGH is no longer used in milk being supplied to its stores, removing the need for organically sourced dairy goods.

 

 

 

Such an action by one of the world's leading coffee store proprietors could set the trend for other major users of rGBH induced milk to review what products they are using in their formulations.

 

 

 

The company said it had taken the move following growing customer demand for milk that did not contain the hormone.

 

 

 

"After over a year of work with our suppliers, every espresso drink that's ordered in our company-operated stores now comes with dairy sourced without the use of rBGH," the company stated.

 

 

 

Unilever Euro plans not deterred by French hostage drama

 

Unilever has said that it will continue to negotiate with workers over staff cuts at a French ice cream plant, which became the unlikely setting for a hostage crises on Monday night.

 

 

 

The company claimed that some members from a group of protestors, who had been campaigning over plans to cut 254 job at the Cogesal-Miko site in St. Dizier, had stormed the plant on evening Monday night, forcing its manager into his office overnight.

 

 

 

Police eventually become involved with scuffles with some of the protestors, before the manager was freed.

 

 

 

The group says that actions of those involved would not set back its restructuring plans, which it claims will make the plant better able to compete within the competitive dairy market. Unliver said it will cut production of some of its less successful brands.

 

 

 

The spokesperson added that there had been a number of minor injuries to a some of the protestors who had clashed with police, but no serious accidents had been reported.

 

Unilever's says it intends to cut about 10,000 to 12,000 staff from its European workforce over the next four years.

 

 

 

The reduction in job numbers forms part of the group's attempts to cut €1.5bn out of its costs throughout its global operations. The plan includes focusing on a more narrow range of products, both in the food, and home and personal care divisions.

 

 

 

Danone pushes supply partnerships for innovation plan

 

Danone says that it signed 10 exclusive cooperation agreements with suppliers in 2007 for some of its core products to push ahead with innovation aims.

 

 

 

The dairy and nutrition company said it had entered into partnerships with a number of ingredient and packaging group like Cognis and Graham to better tap consumer desire for sustainability and nutrition benefits in their products.

 

 

 

The company claims that with innovation requiring increasingly specialized skills, making use of its suppliers' own research and development experience will provide additioanl long-term benefits to its operations.

 

 

 

Danone claims that as a result of the focus, the company is working with packager Graham to cut packaging material use by 10 per cent between 2000 and 2010.

 

 

 

Since 1996, the weight of packaging used in bottles for its Actimel brand had been halved, Danone claimed.

 

 

 

Similarly, ingredients supplier Cognis has dedicated five of its research workers to aid Danone's own formulations, which the dairy group claims has made it the leader for fresh dairy products with bad cholesterol lowering properties.

 

 

 

Cognis chief executive officer Antonio Trius said the cooperation was mutually beneficial for both companies involved.

 

 

 

"This partnership based on collaboration at a very early stage of the product development, opens up a new innovation path," he stated. "Because we were involved at the very beginning of the process, we manage, altogether with Danone, to define accurately & rapidly the right solution for the identified benefit."

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