Manufacturing & Technology

France: Danone Completes Conversion of Dairy Yogurt Plant to Oat Milk Production

French multinational food corporation Danone has converted its dairy yogurt plant in Villecomtal-sur-Arros to oat milk production.

The company announced it was planning the conversion in 2021, as the French market for plant-based products continued to increase. Jobs at the plant will be retained following the transition, which required two years of work and a €43 million investment.

The facility will mostly produce oat milk for Danone’s plant-based brand, Alpro, which the company acquired in 2017. Initially, around 100,000 litres per day will be produced, but this could eventually rise to as much as 300,000. Around 90% of this will be exported, mainly to other European countries.

Danone now has four plant-based milk facilities across Europe — the others are in Issenheim (France), Lunnarp (Sweden), and Wevelgem (Belgium). To begin with, the oats used by the Villecomtal-sur-Arros facility will come from Spain and Germany. However, it is hoped that locally-grown oats could eventually be used instead. The new facility was inaugurated on February 12, in the presence of officials including the Mayor of Villecomtal-sur-Arros.

Danone converts yogurt plant to oat milk production
© Danone

Climate transition goals

Danone is looking to expand its plant-based business as part of its sustainability goals. The company’s climate transition plan describes growing consumer interest in plant-based foods as both a risk and an opportunity for Danone, and says the company is investing significantly in plant-based ingredients.

Recently, Danone put a €2 price cap on Alpro almond and oat milks in Belgium, reducing prices by between 20% and 40%. The company said it aimed to encourage consumers who did not currently buy plant-based milks to try the products.

In the US, Danone continues to launch new plant-based products such as creamers and yogurts under its Silk and So Delicious brands. The company has also shown an interest in animal-free dairy, investing in biotech company Imagindairy — which uses precision fermentation to produce dairy proteins without the use of animals — last year.

“Our Alpro brand is committed to dietary diversity and we are working hard to meet demand,” said Benjamin Chevallier, country manager of plant-based for France at Danone. “Going forward, we aim to raise awareness among France’s population. We will be stepping up production of both our oat-based ranges, rich in plant proteins, and our on-the-go formats.”

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