Danone and Japanese probiotic drinks group Yakult Honsha have ended a long-standing alliance and replaced it with a looser “cooperation framework”.

In a statement today (26 April), Yakult said the two firms had been unable to reach an agreement on the framework of the alliance, following a “long period” of discussions. As a result, the Japanese firm said it gave notice to Danone to terminate the agreement.

Under the new agreement, there is no clause limiting or commiting Danone to its 20% shareholding in Yakult.

The new tie-up comes after reports Danone wanted to increase its stake in Yakult. Executives of the Japanese probiotics maker are reported to have repeatedly expressed opposition to Danone wanting to boost its stake in the company over concerns it might affect its independence. It is understood the French food giant was in talks with Yakult to increase its stake to around 28%.

“This new framework calls for existing collaborations to be continued, and envisages extending them into areas that are more operational in nature and that offer benefits for both parties,” Danone said. “Given the relationship of trust built up over the years, this framework does not contain commitment or limitation regarding Danone’s equity interest in Yakult.”

Yakult, however, said today it will continue to work with Danone on existing and future projects.

“Yakult and Danone confirm that the two companies will continue to engage in the existing joint ventures, probiotics promotion activities and research activities that have been jointly undertaken by them under the Agreement, and further that Yakult and Danone will undertake any mutually beneficial collaboration in the future.”