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Activia logo.png
ManufacturerGroupe Danone
Country of originFrance
Introduced1986; 33 years ago (1986)

Activia is a brand of yogurt owned by Groupe Danone ("The Dannon Company" in the United States) and introduced in France in 1987. As of 2013, Activia is present in more than 70 countries and on 5 continents. Activia is classified as a functional food,[1] designed to improve digestive health.[2]

In the 1980s, Danone researchers took interest in bifidobacteria. They developed a specific strain that can survive in the acidic medium of yogurt. In addition to traditional yogurt bacteria, they decided to add a probiotic strain:Bifidus Actiregularis. Activia products thus contain Bifidobacterium animalis DN 173,010, a proprietary strain of Bifidobacterium, a probiotic which is marketed by Dannon under the trade names Bifidus Regularis, Bifidus Actiregularis, Bifidus Digestivum and Bifidobacterium Lactis.[3] Danone launched Activia in France in 1987 under the "Bio" brand name.[4]


In the 1980s, Danone researchers took interest in bifidobacteria. They developed a specific strain that can survive in the acidic medium of yogurt. In addition to traditional yogurt bacteria, they decided to add a probiotic strain:Bifidus Actiregularis. Activia products thus contain Bifidobacterium animalis DN 173,010, a proprietary strain of Bifidobacterium, a probiotic which is marketed by Dannon under the trade names Bifidus Regularis, Bifidus Actiregularis, Bifidus Digestivum and Bifidobacterium Lactis.[3]

Introductions into new countries[edit]

  • 1987: France
  • 1988: Belgium, Spain, and the United Kingdom
  • 1989: Italy
  • 2002: Russia, Japan
  • 2003: America
  • 2004: Canada
  • 2005: Africa, China, and the United States.[5]
  • 2011: Australia.[6]

By 2006, the brand was operating in 22 countries. In 2013, it was sold in more than 70 countries.[7]

Products in 2013[edit]

A Russian Activia bottle

Activia products are sold with different textures (set or firm, stirred, drinkable ... ) and in flavors adapted to local consumer preferences. The product line varies by country. Most Activia yogurts contain real fruit.


United States[edit]

  • Activia: a yogurt that consists of cherry, prune, strawberry banana, peach, mixed berry, blueberry, strawberry, vanilla[8]
  • Activia Light: strawberry banana, key lime, raspberry, blueberry, peach, strawberry, vanilla
  • Activia Harvest Picks: cherry, mixed berry, peach, strawberry
  • Activia Breakfast Blend: apple cinnamon, maple and brown sugar, banana bread, vanilla
  • Activia Fiber: peach cereal, strawberry cereal, vanilla cereal
  • Activia Drinks: mango, peach, prune, strawberry, strawberry banana
  • Activia 24 oz. Tubs: vanilla light, plain, vanilla


  • Activia: blueberry, vanilla, raspberry, strawberry, strawberry rhubarb, prune, peach, cherry, lemon, plain unsweetened, plain sweetened, apple and blackberry[9]
  • Activia source of fiber: strawberry kiwi cereal, red fruits cereal, peach cereal, vanilla cereal, blueberry cereal
  • Activia fat free: strawberry, vanilla, raspberry, peach
  • Drinkable Activia: strawberry, vanilla, mixed berry


In Brazil, both yogurt and yogurt-drinks are available. In addition to the usual worldwide fruit flavors, honey with carrot is also available. The "light" line is marketed as "0%" fat.[10]


In Bulgaria, Croatia, and Romania the products include semi-solid yogurts (plain, cereal, strawberry, peach and prune) and yogurt drinks (plain, cereal, strawberry-kiwi and cherry-vanilla).

In Finland the Activia brand includes fruit and natural yogurt as well as yogurt drinks. Lactose free forms of the yogurt are also sold.

In France, semi-solid yogurt and yogurt with fruit layers are available. Unique flavors include coconut. The "light" series is marketed as "0%" fat.[11]

In Spain there are over 56 different flavors. Following a European law which forbids non-organic food to be labeled "Bio", Danone changed Spanish "Bio"-branded products to the "Activia" brand in order to comply with the law.

In Russia, the products include yogurt, yogurt drinks and kefir, a drink traditionally popular in Commonwealth of Independent States countries. The fiber yogurt series includes three muesli flavors in addition to the oat cereal flavor found in the US and UK. Drinkable yogurt variations include pineapple and dried apricot, among others.

United Kingdom and Ireland[edit]

In Britain and Republic of Ireland, the Activia range includes :

  • Fruit: mango, cranberry, fig, kiwi, apricot, prune, rhubarb, strawberry, cereals fibre, pear[12]
  • 0% Fat Free: peach, cherry, forest fruit, mandarin, mango, blueberry, pineapple, raspberry, strawberry, vanilla
  • Single pot fat free: peach, cherry, raspberry, strawberry, banana toffee and biscuity bits, juicy pineapple
  • Fruit Layer: prune, raspberry
  • Natural : 500 Gram pot
  • Intensely Creamy Classics : raspberry, cherry, peaches, strawberry, lemon, vanilla
  • Intensely Creamy Temptations: caramel, coconut
  • Greek style: berries, lemon, honey
  • Breakfast pouring yogurt: natural, vanilla, strawberry.[13]
  • Breakfast pots (with crunchy clusters): vanilla, honey, peach


In the Republic of South Africa, flavors include pear, mango, dried apricot, kiwi, fiber and prune.


  • 4-Pack: strawberry, natural, vanilla, fig, berries, mango[14]
  • Dessert: strawberry shortcake, apple strudel, passionfruit cheesecake
  • Favourites: vanilla berries mango, berries strawberry blueberry
  • Large Tub: strawberry, vanilla
  • Pouring: strawberry, mango, natural, vanilla
  • Singles: berries, strawberry, mango


Lactobacillus bulgaricus, also from a sample of Activia yogurt.  The numbered ticks are 11 micrometres apart.

With its launch in France in the 1980s, Activia pioneered the probiotic spoonable yogurt market.[15]

In 2006, Activia sales reached $130 million, in the US alone. The following year, sales increased by 50% in the US market.[16]

In 2009, sales of Activia reach €2.6 billion globally, with key markets in Europe and the United States.[15] Activia's popularity in the United States is due to the growing public demand for natural products as well as the growing market of probiotics that came into vogue in the late 1990s.[17]

In 2010, Activia dominated the probiotic dairy sector.[18] The success of Activia has increased the health yogurt market.[19]

Activia, Actimel and Danonino account for more than half of the total worldwide yogurt sales.[20] Activia is a more than 2 billion-dollar brand which owes its success to the health benefit claim.[19]

In 2011, Activia is the largest global fresh dairy brand in the world (Nielsen data). The probiotic yogurt market is valued at €4 billion.[21]

Activia is present in more than 70 countries and is one of the major brands of the Danone Group.[7]

The probiotics market[edit]

Activia products are considered as functional foods. These foods are enriched with probiotics and provide health benefits when consumed in adequate amounts. The positive effects depend on the specific strain, and its dose.[22]

In 2003, the probiotics (also called functional foods) market was worth $9.9 billion.[23] These products are also heavily marketed and more expensive than non-probiotic dairy products.

In 2009, in United Kingdom, 60% of households regularly bought probiotic drinks. The market there is currently worth £164m per year.[24]

Consumers are willing to pay for products that provide health benefits.[25] Activia products, that are considered as functional foods, are priced about two dollars higher than other yogurts.


Since Activia's launch, the Danone Group focused Activia communication on probiotics and health benefits. The WHO defines probiotics as "live microorganisms which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host". Consumers bought Activia products mostly for its medicinal qualities.[26]

In 2010, Dannon partnered with actress Jamie Lee Curtis to promote Activia products.[27] On the screen, the audience could read "scientifically proven" to reduce irregularity. According to the brand, Activia "helps regulate your digestive system" when eaten on a daily basis.[28] Danone used health claims as a marketing tool.[29]

But Danone has been accused of deceptive advertising.[30]

Further the US litigation and the EU health claims law, and just before the decision of the EFSA on Activia, Danone thus decided to change Activia communication and marketing. Advertising does not talk about health benefits any more, but about pleasure and taste.[31] On Danone's website, one can read : "Drinking and eating are, first and foremost, a source of pleasure, and while the initial purchase of a product may be motivated by a health benefit, in the majority of cases, a repeat purchase is motivated by the taste".[32]

Debates surrounding health claims on probiotic foods[edit]

Some experts say that there is evidence that probiotic strains reduce diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome and duration of colds.[33][34] But others argue that their benefits are not certain.[23]

The US FDA pressed charges for false advertising.

According to Danone, Activia is based on 17 scientific studies.[21][35] But according to CBS News, two of these studies were not statistically significant compared to the placebo groups[36] and six others didn't show a statistically significant improvement in transit time.[37]

The EU health claims law[edit]

In 2006, a European regulation demanded that health food companies come up with the scientific evidence to back their labeling and advertising.[38] Member states were asked to submit health claims from manufacturers who had to wait for the approval of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). EFSA currently verifies all functional foods claims.[24] Most of the time, EFSA rejects companies' claims due to the lack of scientific evidence.[39]

In 2010, following a stream of negative opinions from EFSA for other health claims, Dannon decided to withdraw claims on Activia.[24]

Controversies in the United States[edit]

Litigation in 2010[edit]

Streptococcus thermophilus, also from the same sample of Activia yogurt.  Numbered ticks are 11 micrometres apart.

In its marketing for Activia, Danone claimed that Bifidobacterium animalis relieves irregularity.

In the 2010 Activia TV commercials, a voiceover explains : "Activia eaten every day is clinically proven to help regulate your digestive system in two weeks". Danone said it had scientific evidence to back up its assertions.[40]

But according to the Federal Trade Commission, commercials and claims on Activia packages are deceptive and Danone exaggerates the yogurt's health benefits.[41] In its 2010 charges against Danone, the FTC stated that "Eating one serving of Activia daily is not clinically proven to relieve temporary irregularity and help with slow intestinal transit time".[36] In fact, consumers must eat three servings of Activia each day to obtain health benefits.[40]

In December 2010, The Danone Company settled allegations of false advertising. In the settlement, Danone dropped its claims of the health benefits of its Activia yogurt.[42] The company thus agreed to stop advertising that Activia yogurt improves motility, unless the ad conveys that three servings must be eaten per day to obtain these benefits. Danone therefore removed the words "clinically" and "scientifically proven" from Activia products.[43]

Danone agreed to pay US$21 million to 39 states that had coordinated investigations with the FTC.[44][45] In response to a similar lawsuit in Canada, Danone agreed to settle the suit by paying compensation and modifying its advertising.[46]

Class action in 2008–2009[edit]

A class action lawsuit filed in Los Angeles federal court on 25 January 2008, argued that Danone's own studies failed to support its advertised claims.[47] The class action suit accused Danone of mounting a massive false advertising campaign to convince consumers to buy Activia products because of their health benefits.[48]

In a statement in response to the lawsuit, Danone stated that it "strongly disagrees with the allegations in the lawsuit" and that it makes all scientific studies about its products available to the public, following the established method of peer-review and publication.[49] According to the group:"All of Dannon's claims for Activia and DanActive are completely supported by peer-reviewed science and are in accordance with all laws and regulations".[50]

In 2009, as a part of the settlement, Danone agreed to create a $35 million fund to reimburse unsatisfied consumers who had bought its Activia and DanActive yogurts.[51]

Danone spokespeople deny the claims of the lawsuit and admitted no wrongdoing as part of the settlement, which was agreed to in order to avoid the distraction and expense of litigation.[52] As of September 2012, this fund has only paid out about US$1 million in reimbursements to consumers.[46]

Litigation in Canada in 2009[edit]

In October 2009, Danone was sued in Quebec Superior Court over the nature of the health claims in its advertising.[46] The company had asserted that Activia yogurt could improve digestion or prevent the common cold.[46] In September 2012, the parties elected to settle the case; Danone agreed to modify its advertising claims, but was not forced to admit wrongdoing.[46] Consumers who purchased Activia yogurt between 1 April 2009 and 6 Nov 2012 had 90 days to request compensation between C$15 to C$50, based on the quantity purchased.[46]


  1. ^ "Europe puts health claims to the test". World Health Organization. September 2009.
  2. ^ "Activia, Deactiviated: FTC Forces Dannon to Modify Claims". Brand channel. December 2010.
  3. ^ a b "What is Bifidus Regularis". What is Bifidus Regularis?.
  4. ^ "Substitution by an Unknown Target Brand ?" (PDF). Centre de recherche DMSP. April 2008.[dead link]
  5. ^ "Danone to launch probiotic Activia in US". Daily reporter. October 2005.
  6. ^ "Danone debuts probiotic yoghurt Activia in 69th country: Australia". Food navigator Asia. May 2011.
  7. ^ a b "Healthy food sales in fast-growth markets". Fidelity worldwide investment. 2010.
  8. ^ Activia US
  9. ^ Activia Canada
  10. ^ Danone Brazil Archived 15 February 2013 at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ Danone France
  12. ^ Activia UK Archived 24 April 2013 at the Wayback Machine
  13. ^ "Activia joins Rachel's in pouring yogurt". The Grocer. October 2010.
  14. ^ Activia Australia Archived 9 April 2013 at the Wayback Machine
  15. ^ a b "Marketing Probiotics: From Past to Present, the Market Has Been Friendly to Friendly Bacteria". Innova Market Insights. April 2012.
  16. ^ "Gut instinct". Slate. July 2008.
  17. ^ "U.S. health food consumers discover probiotics". The International Herald Tribune. January 2007.
  18. ^ "Finding Success in Functional Foods". Nutraceuticals world. November 2010.
  19. ^ a b "Healthy year ahead for yogurts". Food Mag. 25 March 2009.
  20. ^ "Danone:a global leader in healthy food". IFI Magazine. Archived from the original on 28 May 2013.
  21. ^ a b "Danone debuts probiotic yoghurt Activia in 69th country: Australia". Food Navigator. May 2011.
  22. ^ "Functional dairy foods: making healthy eating easier?" (PDF). National Dairy Council. August 2008. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2010-12-30.
  23. ^ a b "Should we swallow this?". The Guardian. February 2006.
  24. ^ a b c "Are probiotics really that good for your health?". The Guardian. July 2009.
  25. ^ "Consumers don't buy ingredients, they buy product benefits". Natural Products Insider. August 2011.
  26. ^ "Activia". Wikidot. March 2010.
  27. ^ "New Activia® Selects Change the Culture of Yogurt". Business Wire. August 2011.
  28. ^ "Is Yogurt Good for You?". Slate. July 2011.
  29. ^ "Danone faces key EU decision on health claims". Reuters. March 2010.
  30. ^ "What health benefits, exactly, is Activia yogurt supposed to offer?". Slate. July 2008.
  31. ^ "Danone yogurts revived with pleasure". September 2010. Archived from the original on 30 May 2013.
  32. ^ "Diversity, balance and nutrition are inextricably linked with taste and pleasure". Danone. Archived from the original on 18 May 2013.
  33. ^ "Probiotics: Looking Underneath the Yogurt Label". The International Herald Tribune. September 2009.
  34. ^ "New research on probiotics shows promise". USA Today. May 2012.
  35. ^ "Probiotic claims". Choice. July 2011.
  36. ^ a b "Why Dannon let Jamie Lee Curtis tell lies about Activia". CBS News. December 2010.
  37. ^ "Dannon, Coca-Cola, you guys have some nerve". CBS News. February 2011.
  38. ^ "Probiotic foods could 'disappear' due to constant scientific rejection of health and digestion claims". Daily News. February 2012.
  39. ^ "EU health food claims law begins to bite". BBC. July 2010.
  40. ^ a b "Danone Settles With F.T.C. Over Some Health Claims". The New York Times. December 2010.
  41. ^ "Foods With Benefits, or So They Say". New York Times. May 2011.
  42. ^ "Dannon Agrees to Drop Exaggerated Health Claims for Activia Yogurt and DanActive Dairy Drink". Federal Trade Commission. December 2010.
  43. ^ "Dannon to Pay $45M to Settle Yogurt Lawsuit". ABC News. February 2010.
  44. ^ "Dannon Agrees to Drop Exaggerated Health Claims for Activia Yogurt and DanActive Dairy Drink". Federal Trade Commission. 15 December 2010.
  45. ^ Sandler, Lauren (3 July 2008). "Gut Instinct: What health benefits, exactly, is Activia yogurt supposed to offer?". Slate.
  46. ^ a b c d e f Taylor, Lesley Ciarula (24 September 2012), "Millions of Canadians benefit from class-action settlement against yogurt maker", Toronto Star, Toronto, ON, Canada: Torstar, ISSN 0319-0781, OCLC 137342540, archived from the original on 25 September 2012, retrieved 25 September 2012, In both cases, the lawsuits challenged Danone's claims that Activia yogurt or DanActive probiotic drinks could aid digestion or prevent colds.
  47. ^ "Dannon to Pay $45M to Settle Yogurt Lawsuit". ABC News. February 2010.
  48. ^ "Dannon sued over "probiotic" bacteria claims". Reuters. January 2008.
  49. ^ "Danone to settle lawsuit over Activia yogurt, DanActive health claims". CTV News. September 2012.
  50. ^ "Dannon Yogurt Faces Lawsuit Over False Advertising". ABC News. January 2008.
  51. ^ "Dannon agreed to settle a false ad lawsuit for $35 m". PopSop. April 2009. Archived from the original on 8 June 2013.
  52. ^ "Dannon settles false advertising lawsuit over Activia, DanActive yogurt", Los Angeles Times, 19 September 2009

External links[edit]

  • Official website (France)
  • Activia USA
  • – An analysis of the terms Bifidus Actiregularis, Bifidus Regularis, Bifidus Digestivum, L. Casei Immunitass and their variants, as well as the marketing strategy, and information about the potential health benefits of live yogurts.