Blog: Katy AskewDanone closes WhiteWave, who will acquire Stonyfield?

Katy Askew | 13 April 2017

Danone completed its US$12.5bn acquisition of WhiteWave Foods this week. The move will roughly double Danone's presence in North America, where WhiteWave is a top four dairy player.

In the US, where the Danone WhiteWave combination will generate revenue of around $6bn, the combined business will benefit from synergies of scale and the group's regional presence will be strengthened across the country.

The WhiteWave acquisition also increases Danone's exposure to some fast-growing segments of the North American grocery market. WhiteWave generates 38% of its sales in plant-based foods and beverages, 34% in organic products and 28% in what Danone described as "indulgence" categories, referring primarily to WhiteWave's coffee creamers business.

However, the US regulators were concerned that the combination of WhiteWave's organic dairy business, which includes the Horizon Organic brand, and Stonyfeild, the organic dairy business already owned by Danone, would restrict competition in the sector.

In a deal with the US Department of Justice reached at the end of last month, Danone agreed to sell off Stonyfield "in the months following the closing of the acquisition of WhiteWave" to "facilitate the prompt closing" of the deal.

Commenting at the time, Danone CEO Emmanuel Faber said: "We are committed to finding the right partner to support Stonyfield's growth journey in the future. In doing so we will attract more competition and capital into the US organic segment, creating an opportunity for it to grow even faster."

In a column for just-food published today (13 April), US columnist Victor Martino takes a look at who could be interested in buying Stonyfield. With interest in the US organic sector reaching new highs almost daily, the list of potential strategic buyers is a long one. It includes the likes of General Mills, Danone's arch competitor in the US yogurt sector, as well as struggling Dean Foods and snack giant PepsiCo, which previously made a short-lived foray into US yogurt when it formed a joint venture with Germany's Muller. And, as always, the sale is likely to pique the interest of the PE sector, which has been steadily stepping up its level of investment in the US natural and organic space.

On to closing of a different kind, just-food's offices will close tomorrow for the Easter weekend. We will be back at our desks, pencils sharpened and at the ready to bring you all the latest news from the global food sector on Tuesday. For those of you enjoying a long weekend, we hope it’s a good one.

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