The Danone plant-based portfolio is getting bigger. The dairy giant has acquired Follow Your Heart, a Los Angeles-based vegan egg, cheese, and mayonnaise brand with 51 years of experience in the plant-based food space.
Danone made the announcement on Friday and confirmed it had entered into a share purchase agreement with Earth Island, Follow Your Heart’s parent company.
Danone will acquire 100 percent of the shares of Earth Island per the terms of the agreement, which is currently pending regulatory approval. The deal is expected to help the Paris-based brand achieve its goal to bring innovative, delicious plant-based offerings to consumers.
Given Earth Island’s proven track record of growth, innovation, and a long-term commitment to nutrition, sustainability and environmental stewardship, the acquisition makes sense for both brands.
Under Earth Island’s guidance since 1988, Follow Your Heart produces Vegenaise, a plant-based mayonnaise, dairy-free cheese, cream cheese and sour cream, an array of vegan salad dressings, and plant-based dips and spreads. The vegan brand also produces VeganEgg—a plant-based egg alternative made with soy.
“Our mission has always been to produce the best plant-based food products and to make them available to as many people as possible,” Bob Goldberg, co-founder and CEO of Earth Island, said via a press release. “We’re very pleased to be joining the Danone family of plant-based companies in a collective effort to bring positive change in the world through the creation of sustainably and responsibly-made foods.”
Danone’s Plant-Based Growth Goals
As part of the Danone family, Earth Island will be able to accelerate the growth of Follow Your Heart. Yet, the acquisition is advantageous for Danone as well.
The multinational company sells products such as yogurt, milk, and water all over the world. Its brands include Dannon, Oikos, and Wallaby. Danone recently set a goal of increasing its plant-based sales worldwide from more than €2 billion in 2020 to €5 billion by 2025.
“Our growth strategy focuses on valorized innovations to address some of the fastest-growing trends, notably among the younger generations,” Danone chairman and CEO Emmanuel Faber said at the time.
Plant-based food and beverages are a $5 billion market in the U.S. Plant-based cheese is one of the fastest-growing segments. Follow Your Heart already produces dairy-free cheese in sliced, shredded, and grated varieties.
“We are delighted to welcome Follow Your Heart’s team to our amazing team at Danone,” said Shane Grant, EVP and CEO, Danone North America. “The Follow Your Heart family shares our commitment to producing high-quality products that delight consumers while contributing to the wellbeing of People and Planet.”
Grant added that consumers are increasingly turning to flexitarian diets. “This partnership will build on our success in plant-based beverages, yogurt alternatives and creamers, further accelerating the growth of our North American plant-based business,” he said.
Danone’s Other Plant-Based Acquisitions
Follow Your Heart is hardly Danone’s first plant-based acquisition. In fact, in recent years Danone has acquired several well-known vegan brands.
In April 2017, Danone purchased WhiteWave Foods, which owns Silk, So Delicious, and Alpro.
Thus far, that decision has proven to be very lucrative. Following that acquisition, Danone reported a whopping $760 million spike in sales.
Furthermore, that acquisition has allowed Danone to produce a bevy of plant-based products. These include a line of probiotic vegan yogurts from its popular Light & Fit brand called Good Plants, Vega vegan yogurt and protein powder, and So Delicious Dairy Free coconut yogurt and cheese shreds.
The plant-based dairy sector is so prolific that Danone opened the largest vegan yogurt factory in the U.S. in February 2019. The facility, which is located outside of Pittsburgh, is dedicated entirely to plant-based foods.