Global French food giant Danone cut the ribbon for the largest yogurt factory in the U.S. this week.
The multi-million dollar facility, located outside of Pittsburgh is dedicated entirely to plant-based food, FoodBev reports. The new factory will make products from Danone’s profile, including Vega vegan yogurt and protein powder, Silk yogurt, and So Delicious Dairy Free coconut yogurt and cheese shreds.
“As flexitarian eating patterns continue to evolve and grow in popularity, plant-based food options present an opportunity to bring new choices throughout the grocery store,” said Mariano Lozano, CEO of Danone North America.
“Dairy-free is different than non-dairy – dairy-free options must be produced in a facility that is solely dedicated to plant-based food production,” Lozano continued. “As consumers continue to seek out more dairy-free options, having a facility that meets this standard gives us an opportunity to deliver on their growing demand and high expectations.”
According to the company, one-third of the country’s population is flexitarian. A survey conducted by YouGov on behalf of dairy-free brand Kite Hill last January revealed that 44 percent of consumers are interested in trying vegan yogurt and cheese.
Chad Stone, plant director at Danone North America’s DuBois facility called the facility a “priority,” adding: “Many people who enjoy our products look for plant-based options because they are interested in lessening their impact on the environment through diet.”
Danone’s Vegan Brands
Danone, which owns dairy brands such as Dannon, Activia, Wallaby, and Oikos, dived into the plant-based market when it acquired WhiteWave Foods, parent company to Silk, Vega, and So Delicious in 2016. The French food giant credited vegan food sales for its revenue spike last April and later revealed that it plans to triple sales in the category by 2025.
“Our growth strategy focuses on valorized innovations to address some of the fastest-growing trends, notably among the younger generations,” said Danone chairman and CEO Emmanuel Faber.
The company announced the launch of its first vegan probiotic almond yogurt brand, Good Plants, last September. It also plans to launch dairy-free Oikos coconut yogurt later this year, according to FoodNavigator-USA.
The vegan Oikos yogurt launch follows a hint from executive vice president of Danone’s dairy and plant-based business, Francisco Camacho last June, that the company would launch vegan yogurt under an existing dairy brand. “We didn’t add plant-based to only have an offering on one side,” he said, referring to the WhiteWave acquisition.
According to Stone, Danone will take steps to make the new factory more sustainable, such as reducing electricity consumption by switching to LED lights and minimizing waste and water usage.