Dairy Dialog podcast 70: IDF cheese symposium, Danone North America, Yofix

By Jim Cornall contact

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Danone North America, Danone, Idf, Cheese, plant based

We have three guests on the podcast this week: Gilles Froment, senior vice-president, Government & industry relations at Lactalis Canada, who is on the organizing committee of the IDF International Cheese Science & Technology Symposium; Steve Grün, CEO of Yofix; and Tina Owens, senior director of agriculture, Danone North America. We also have our weekly look at the global dairy markets with Liam Fenton from INTL FCStone.

Fields pic: Getty Images/robb1037

IDF International Cheese Science & Technology Symposium

The International Dairy Federation Cheese Science and Technology Symposium takes place every four years in different countries around the world.

From June 1 to 5, 2020, Quebec City in Canada will be the host for around 400 researchers, cheese experts and industrial representatives from more than 30 countries.

The symposium introduces recent research results, innovation and expertise in fields such as cheese microbial ecology, ripening, flavor, texture, functionality, cheese authenticity, nutrition, health, efficiency and innovation in processes.

As well as site visits, the program includes keynote speakers Eileen Gibney, University College Dublin, Institute of Food and Health, Ireland; John A Lucey, Center for Dairy Research, University of Wisconsin - Madison, US; Paul Cotter, Teagasc Food Research Centre, Moorepark, Fermoy, Co. Cork, Ireland; Ylva Ardö, Emeritus Professor, Copenhagen University, Department of Food Science; and Valérie Gagnaire, UMR Science & Technology of Milk and Egg (STLO) Agrocampus Ouest, France.

Key topics of sessions are microbial ecology: cheese technology; cheese texture; ripening, flavor and cheese authenticity; functionality, nutrition and health; and innovation and consumer-centric approach to research.

The Canadian national committee of the International Dairy Federation, FIL-IDF Canada, the Science and Technology Dairy Research Centre (STELA) of Université Laval, Novalait and the Cheese expertise Center (CEC) will be presenting activities around cheese and dairy, including dairy production, processing and economics.

Early bird registration fees​ for the event still apply until March 1.

Yofix Raises $2.5m to fuel growth

Israeli clean-label dairy alternatives innovator Yofix Probiotics, Ltd., has concluded a series-A round of strategic investment from new investors: Germany-based Müller Ventures, AG; the French Bel Group; and LionTree Partners, LLC, based in the US. This brings in a total of $2.5m in investment.

The new funding provides the startup with leverage for attaining global expansion of its current portfolio of plant-based yogurts. The funding also allows the company to accelerate development of its tech platform to launch more innovative soy-free dairy alternatives in additional categories.

“Receiving the financial investment by such prominent multinational players of the dairy industry is an endorsement of trust and confidence in our products and technology,”​ says Steve Grün, Yofix CEO.

“This fresh influx opens the door to new possibilities. Over the next few years, we will focus strategic efforts on expanding our line of dairy alternatives — which also includes oat yogurt shakes — into the global market. The support will also boost the advancement of our efforts toward developing more clean-label plant-based offerings that extend into alternative cheeses, frozen desserts, and milk alternatives — the prospects are boundless.”

Benjamin Bugl, managing director of Müller Ventures, said, “In the fast-growing dairy alternative space, Yofix offers a unique range of quality products, both in terms of flavor and texture.

“With no artificial ingredients, its clean-label solution is a powerful differentiator for consumer awareness and acceptance. Combined with Yofix’ strong management team, this makes it an attractive investment opportunity for Müller.”

Last year, Yofix launched clean-label yogurt alternatives based on its proprietary zero-waste production process. The fermented formula is soy-free and composed of a short list of natural ingredients, including oats, lentils, and sesame. It was designed to serve the lactose-intolerant and dairy-allergic population as well as offering a plant-based solution for the growing vegan and flexitarian markets.

“The rise of flexitarianism has led to strong, growing demand for plant-based products worldwide,”​ said Fatine Layt, head of France of LionTree.

“Yofix has a unique positioning, offering 100% clean-label plant-based yogurt and a promising platform for delivering not only yogurts and drinkable yogurts, but a complete portfolio of real dairy replacements. More importantly, they hit all the desired organoleptic marks. We are enthusiastic to witness its next steps and facilitate its growth through our global network.”

Caroline Sorlin, plant-based acceleration unit general manager at Bel Group, said, “We are excited to work with Yofix, one of the most innovative startups in its sector. It offers a unique dairy alternative range for the market, combining great flavor, good nutrition, clean labeling, and respect for the environment. By taking part in the Yofix adventure, we are choosing to get closer to new players in the market that have key expertise and are developing the innovations of tomorrow.

“Bel Group is entering the plant-based arena for the first time, so this gives concrete expression to our strategy of combining the best of dairy and plant-based products. This approach is perfectly in line with our corporate mission: ‘For All. For Good,’ in favor of healthier and more responsible food for all.”

Danone North America partners with rePlant Capital

Danone North America has announced a partnership with rePlant Capital, a financial services firm dedicated to reversing climate change.

For the next several years, rePlant will invest up to $20m to support Danone North America’s farmer partners with expenses related to converting to regenerative or organic farming practices. These practices increase biodiversity, enhance ecosystems and enrich soil, as part of the company and its partners’ broader commitments to addressing climate change.

In 2018, Danone North America committed to investing $6m in soil health research over five years. By gaining a better understanding of the variables and nuances across growing regions, the research will enable Danone North America to better guide its farmer partners with regards to farm management and use of regenerative agriculture practices on their farms.

Mariano Lozano, CEO of Danone North America, said, “As a company that is passionate about climate activism, we are pleased to be partnering with rePlant to support our farmers and bring new, innovative financial solutions to address climate change.

“Providing these loans mitigates the financial stress that transitioning to regenerative and organic farming practices places on our farmers and allows them to focus their energy on driving sustainable agriculture on their farms.”

One of the first funds of its kind, rePlant brings together a range of impact investors and family foundations to tackle some of the greatest challenges created by climate change.

“At rePlant, we are dedicated to investing integrated capital into food companies operating from soil to shelf in order to reverse the effects of climate change,” ​said Robyn O’Brien, co-founder, director of partnerships at rePlant Capital.

“When we look at the work Danone North America and its network of farmers are already doing in the area of regenerative agriculture, it is clear they share our commitment to improving soil health. We are very excited to work together to make conversions to regenerative and organic farming practices more accessible for Danone North America’s farmer partners and drive sustainability across American farms.”

Danone North America and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation join forces on shared commitment to regenerative agriculture

Danone North America, in partnership with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), has announced a multi-year agreement aimed at improving the economic resiliency and soil health of farms, including those within the supply chain of the company.

The new public-private partnership will leverage state and federal funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) for soil health. The commitment is in addition to Danone North America’s investment of up to $6m in soil health research over the next four years.

By unlocking available public funding from NFWF and NRCS via a new concept in matching investment proposed by Danone North America, farmers now have more access to seeds and incentives to plant cover crops, which is important for nutrient balancing and overall soil health.

Danone North America will begin working with farmers in Kansas and Ohio before expanding to other states named in the application for NRCS funding, which include Indiana, Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, New Mexico, Nebraska, Idaho and Utah.

The company is working with NFWF to develop an application process to leverage the $3m of USDA funding to expand its soil health program with farmers. The grants are in effect “in escrow” and will be dispersed directly to farmers based on specific criteria — for example, agreeing to implement certain land management activities such as cover crops.

“Soil is the foundation of our food system, with an estimated 95% of food directly or indirectly reliant on soil,”​ said Tina Owens, senior director of agriculture, Danone North America.

“As America’s largest maker of organic and plant-based foods, as well as yogurt, we saw an opportunity to initiate this breakthrough collaboration to benefit the farms on which we rely to make great food.”

In 2018 Danone North America announced funding of $6m to soil health research and this new collaboration adds partners in the public sector.

Danone North America also has a soil health research program.  Now in its second year, the research program has nearly doubled to approximately 50,000 acres, of which about 80% of the acreage added in 2019 is certified organic.

The aim of Danone North America’s soil health initiative is to identify ways to help regenerate soils by enhancing organic matter and soil fertility, and drive long-term economic and environmental benefits — such as soil carbon sequestration, reduced chemicals use, soil water holding capacity, and increased biodiversity — to improve the economic resilience of farmer communities.

Key activities with participating grower and dairy farmer partners and third-party soil health experts include: soil sampling, review of yield, grower engagement, data collection and analysis, and field days with farmers to provide training around soil health best practices.

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