Danone seeks untapped opportunities in a booming high-protein space

By Teodora Lyubomirova

- Last updated on GMT

Danone's performance-oriented range of protein-rich dairy has more than doubled in net sales terms since 2021. Image: Getty/Hiraman
Danone's performance-oriented range of protein-rich dairy has more than doubled in net sales terms since 2021. Image: Getty/Hiraman

Related tags Yogurt skyr Dairy Protein performance lifestyle

The French dairy major is looking to deepen and expand its protein strategy to meet evolving consumer preferences for high-protein dairy products.

Since the start of the year, Danone has seen its yogurt sales in Europe and the US grow in both volume and value terms. Protein has been the main growth driver for the entire yogurt category, the company said, with high-protein yogurts and desserts outpacing the broader protein-rich segment.

Low-sugar brand Too Good is Danone's most successful new brand in the US for the past decade, underpinning consumer demand for low-sugar, high-protein dairy. Image via PRNewswire

Speaking at the company’s recent capital market event, Shane Grant, group deputy CEO, and Pablo Perversi, president Europe, discussed portfolio innovation strategies and consumer trends. Grant revealed that the company’s EDP (essential dairy and plant-based) portfolio has recently returned to growth, with protein-rich product sales one of the main reasons behind the resurgence.

Across all protein segments, high-protein dairy is the number-one category for Danone, representing a €60bn ($64.4bn in current currency) opportunity that’s growing at high single-digit numbers. Within this, protein-rich yogurt and desserts are a €9bn/$9.6bn space that’s growing at a double-digit rate, Grant explained.

Meanwhile, consumer demand for high-protein protein products remains strong, with 84% of health-conscious shoppers interested in protein within their diet, and 64% intentionally adding protein to their diet.

“Today, more than eight health-conscious consumers out of 10 declare their interest in the quantity and the quality of proteins in their diets,” he said. “And two out of three are today intentionally adding protein into their diets. This marks a 10% increase compared to 2021.

“This increase is because protein is caring to a wide array of needs, from proactive health, like fitness and performance, to reactive health, like weight management and wellness. And these needs are not only relevant across all life stages from childhood development and active adults and healthy aging, but also across multiple types of lifestyles.

“Simply put, we see the protein relevance and proteins as one of the largest, most durable growth opportunities in the food and beverage landscape.”

In search for untapped opportunities and portfolio optimizations

Danone already has a presence in the high-protein consumer, lifestyle and performance dairy segments, but perceives opportunities to fine-tune its offering in the coming years and make the most of emerging consumer trends.

“We see a specific benefit space with consumers looking for satiety and increasingly with simple clean ingredients,” Grant explained.

“Specific consumer demand for optimized solutions, for balanced nutrition and taste experiences, for wellness, for next generation weight management solutions, and a specific opportunity and perhaps the most well-associated high protein space physical performance and recovery.

“Our protein strategy is to deepen and expand, to target these benefit spaces with consumer-centric solutions.”

One such area is within low-sugar, high-protein formulations, with Danone’s low-sugar protein-rich US yogurt brand Too Good becoming its most successful new brand in US yogurt in the last decade.

“We see clear and growing demand for high protein with low sugar, for simple, clean, natural expressions of protein with great taste,” Grant said, adding that a differentiated and expanded Too Good is being launched to tap into lower sugar offerings that do not exist today.

The range will include zero-sugar, mix-ins, fruit on the bottom, smoothie and yogurt pouches tailored for kids.

Over in Europe, and particularly France, Skyr has been experiencing a resurgence, Perversi explained. The company is scaling up the range in time for the Olympic Games in Paris with a 360-degree marketing campaign.

The range of drinkable and spoonable skyr will be positioned as fat-free, protein-rich products for everyday nutrition and will include a range of fruit-flavored and plain skyr in drinkable and spoonable formats.

Enhancing a €1bn performer

Danone’s high-protein performance portfolio has more than doubled in net sales terms in the last three years, the company said, growing from €400m net sales in FY21 to more than €1bn. Compared to 2019, the category has grown nine times and has helped propel the entire yogurt category for Danone.

Oikos Pro has been the top yogurt category driver for Danone in the year to date. Image via PRNewswire

Perversi attributed this growth to both shifting consumer attitudes around health and wellness to Danone’s strategic shift from country-led initiatives to a regional approach ‘that allowed us to leverage our efforts to deploy harmonized mixes’, he explained.

“Today, most of our global protein portfolio sits within performance,” Perversi said.

Over in the US, Danone wants to optimize and grow its Oikos Triple Zero and Pro offerings, both of which have driven sales growth in the past few years.

This will be achieved through new recipes for Triple Zero and stronger messaging about Pro’s focus on boosting strength. Other portfolio offerings to benefit from this optimization strategy include the snacking yogurt range Remix, where Danone feels there’s room to maximize consumption occasions.

‘The potential is significant’

Shane Grant concluded: “This is about execution fundamentals, but it's also about broadening the reach of our protein platform, new segments, new propositions to grow the footprint of our protein business.

“In the last 18 months alone on the Pro platform, we have added 13 new countries. This model will drive new protein platforms to scale faster and with more impact.

“Beyond our current business, we intend to lead and shape the future of the protein opportunity. What we are witnessing is the early state of development of the protein opportunity, and the potential for Danone is significant.”

Related topics Manufacturers Danone Functional Dairy

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