French dairy giant Danone said it will look to build on the market presence of its better-known brands to push new plant-based dairy alternative products.

The process began at the end of November when it announced plant-based yogurts are to be sold under the label of Activia, one of its most significant brands.

The Activia 100% Vegetal yogurts, made from soy and oatmeal, are being rolled out in France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Czech Republic and Austria with other markets to follow.

Francisco Camacho, executive vice president for essential dairy and plant-based products at Danone, told just-food that its developments in the area could be expanded into other products.

“We are excited about the potential of the plant-based category and we are positioned very well to capitalise on consumer trends,” he said.

He said the opportunity is there through existing plant-based brands it owns such as Alpro and Silk but also to “offer the consumer some of our other brands”.

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Danone bought US dairy and dairy-alternatives business WhiteWave Foods in 2016, a transaction finalised a year later, which gave it the Alpro brand. Reporting its 2018 results in February, the company revealed three-quarters of what was the former WhiteWave portfolio was enjoying sales growth of more than 5%. 

By contrast, the performance of Activia, a brand promoted on its pro-biotic characteristics, was said to be “roughly flat”.

Camacho admitted that plant-based can give Activia a boost as much as the brand can elevate dairy-free products.

“Activia has a broad base of consumers and that strengthens the plant-based universe but at the same time it will evidently strengthen Activia,” he said.

However, without providing figures, he pointed out that Activia is performing better under its own steam anyway.

“Activia is back on track for growth. It’s stronger than it has been for many years,” he said.

He added: “There are several markets where it is performing extremely well and that makes us feel extremely positive about the brand.”

On dairy-alternative products, Camacho said Danone remains confident about continued growth.

“More and more consumers are adopting the flexitarian diet and for a brand like Activia there is a demand for plant-based versions,” he said.

He continued: “The assumption is that household penetration of plant-based yogurt etc will continue to benefit from strong growth.”

Danone announced a plan last year to triple the size of its plant-based business by 2025.