In the early 1940s, yogurt was a staple in many Europeans’ diets, but hadn’t quite made an impact on Americans. Then, The Dannon Co., Inc., the U.S. subsidiary of European-based Danone, made a breakthrough in the U.S. market when in 1947, it introduced yogurt with strawberry fruit on the bottom.
“At that time, most Americans had never tried yogurt,” says Michael Neuwirth, senior director of public relations. “[But], New Yorkers took a liking to [the yogurt with strawberry fruit on the bottom], and the business began to grow quickly.”
At A Glance
Company Name: The Dannon Co., Inc.
HQs: White Plains, N.Y.
No. of Employees: 1,400
No. of SKUs: 200-plus
Products: Cultured refrigerated and frozen dairy products
Brands: Dannon, Oikos, Activia, Light & Fit, Danimals, Danonino, DanActive
The White Plains, N.Y.-based dairy processor expanded distribution beyond New York to Philadelphia and Boston, and introduced a low-fat yogurt in 1950.
Today, Dannon produces more than 200 different flavors, styles and sizes of refrigerated and frozen cultured dairy products for U.S. retail and foodservice customers under the Dannon, Oikos, Activia, Light & Fit, Danimals, Danonino and DanActive brands. Dannon also placed No. 8 in the Refrigerated & Frozen Foods’ Top 25 frozen dairy processors (March 2014 issue).
Earlier this year, Dannon expanded into the frozen aisle with the launch of Dannon Oikos Greek Frozen Yogurt, available in Vanilla, Chocolate, Strawberry, Café Latte, Black Cherry and Key Lime.
Dannon also widened its reach into the dessert market with Dannon Creamery, which is said to be a first-of-its-kind indulgent dairy dessert option. The cheesecake varieties use traditional Greek yogurt and are topped with fruit sauces, complemented by three puddings made with Grade A milk.
“The yogurt market has grown and evolved in significant ways in the United States during the past several years, and still has significant room for growth, as Americans on average [still] eat less than one cup of yogurt per person each week—well below the levels enjoyed by our Canadian and European counterparts,” says Neuwirth. “As health continues to be top of mind for Americans, more are interested to consume probiotics.”
Keeping health top of mind
When Daniel Carasso, founder of Danone, arrived to the United States from France in 1942, he changed the company name to Dannon to “make the brand sound more American,” Neuwirth says. “Daniel put just two words on the front of the returnable and refillable cups—‘real yogurt.’”
It’s that “real yogurt” that keeps consumers healthy. In fact, Dannon’s primary goal is to raise awareness about the benefits of consuming yogurt products.
That’s why in March, Dannon joined forces with the Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA), Washington, D.C., to further improve the nutrition profile of its yogurt products. As part of this 4-part commitment, Dannon will improve nutrient density by 10%, reduce the total amount of sugar to 23 grams or less, reduce the amount of fat, so that 75% of its products will be low-fat or fat-free and invest $3 million in nutrition education and research.
“Dannon plans to achieve these goals by 2016 through a combination of introducing new innovations and reformulating existing products,” Neuwirth says. “Recipe developers and other experts at Dannon will build on their learnings from last year’s reformulation of Danimals smoothies, in which the company reduced sugar by 25%, while maintaining great taste, texture and convenience.”
And, that’s why Dannon continues to be the pioneer of probiotics in the dairy aisle.
This is just one of the six refrigerated and frozen food processors selected as Refrigerated & Frozen Foods' Processors to Watch in 2015. CLICK HERE to learn more about the other companies.