Groupe Danone

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Groupe Danone S.A.
Société anonyme
Traded as EuronextBN
Industry Food processing
Founded Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain (1919)
Headquarters Boulevard Haussmann
9th arrondissement, Paris, France
Key people
Franck Riboud (Chairman of the Board), Emmanuel Faber (Vice-Chairman and CEO)
Products Dairy products, Bottled water, Early life nutrition, Medical nutrition
Revenue €21.144 billion (2014)[1]
€2.662 billion (2014)[2]
Profit €1.561 billion (2014)[1]
Total assets €30.92 billion (end 2013)[1]
Total equity €10.69 billion (end 2013)[1]
Number of employees
98 236 (end 2014)[1]

Danone is a multinational food-products corporation based in the 9th arrondissement of Paris. It has four business lines: Fresh Dairy products,[3] Waters, Early Life Nutrition and Medical Nutrition. In the United States it is marketed as the Dannon Company.

In 2014, Fresh dairy products represent 52% of the group's total sales, Early Life Nutrition 21%, Waters 20% and Medical Nutrition 7%.[4]



The original company bearing the corporate name was founded in 1919 by Isaac Carasso, a Sephardi Jewish migrant from Salonica, in Barcelona, Spain as a small factory producing yoghurt. The brand was named Danone after Danon, the nickname of his son Daniel Carasso.[5]

Ten years later, the company moved from Spain to neighboring France, and its first French factory was built. During the German occupation of France during World War II, Daniel moved the company to New York to avoid persecution as a result of his Jewish faith. In the United States, Daniel partnered with the Swiss-born Spaniard Joe Metzger and changed the brand name to Dannon to sound more American because many people intuitively pronounced it as "Dan One."

In 1951, Daniel Carasso returned to Paris to manage the family's businesses in France and Spain, and the American business was sold to Beatrice Foods in 1959. (The American business was later repurchased by Danone in 1981.)[6] In Europe in 1967, Danone merged with Gervais, the leading fresh cheese producer in France, and became Gervais Danone.

Glassmaking tradition[edit]

Another branch of the Groupe Danone descended from industrial glassmaker Boussois-Souchon-Neuvesel (BSN), which was founded by the family of Antoine Riboud. After a failed attempted takeover battle for its larger rival Saint-Gobain, Riboud transformed it into one of Europe's leading food groups in the 1970s through a series of acquisitions and mergers, including the 1973 merger with Gervais Danone.

Strategic reorientation[edit]

Danone factory in Bieruń, Poland

The acquisitions initially took the shape of vertical integration, acquiring Alsatian brewer Kronenbourg and Evian mineral water who were the glassmaker's largest customers. This move provided content with which to fill the factory's bottles.[7] In 1973, the company merged with Gervais Danone and began to expand internationally. In 1979, the company abandoned glassmaking by disposing of Verreries Boussois. In 1987, Gervais Danone acquired European biscuit manufacturer Général Biscuit, owners of the LU brand, and, in 1989, it bought out the European biscuit operations of Nabisco.[8]

In 1994, BSN changed its name to Groupe Danone, adopting the name of the group’s best-known international brand. Franck Riboud succeeded his father, Antoine, as the company's chairman and chief executive officer in 1996 when Riboud senior retired. Under Riboud junior, the company continued to pursue its focus on three product groups (dairy, beverages, and cereals) and divested itself of several activities which had become non-core.

The research center of Danone in the business cluster of Paris-Saclay, France.

In 1999 and 2003, the group sold 56% and 44%, respectively, of its glass-containers business. In 2000, the group also sold most of its European beer activities (the brand Kronenbourg and the brand 1664 were sold to Scottish & Newcastle for £1.7 billion;[9] its Italian cheese and meat businesses (Egidio Galbani Spa) were sold in March 2002;[10] as were its beer producing activities in China. The company's British (Jacob's) and Irish biscuit operations were sold to United Biscuits in September 2004.[11] In August 2005, the Group sold its sauces business in the United Kingdom and in the United States (HP Foods),[10] in January 2006, its sauces business in Asia (Amoy Food) was sold to Ajinomoto.[8] Despite these divestitures, Danone continues to expand internationally in its three core business units, emphasising health and well-being products.[12]

In July 2007, it was announced that Danone had reached agreement with Kraft to sell its biscuits division, including the LU and Prince brands, for around €5.3 billion.[13] Also in July 2007, a €12.3 billion cash offer by Danone for the Dutch baby food and clinical nutrition company Numico was agreed to by both boards,[14] creating the world's second largest manufacturer of baby food.

In 2012, Danone Group got more bad financial exposure than its rivals which more than a half Danone sales came from Europe and about 38 percent came from West Europe. In mid-February 2013 Danone Group announced to cut 900 jobs or about 3.3 percent of their 27,000 Europe workforce.[15]

In November 2014, Danone announced it was considering the sale of its 20 percent stake in Japan’s Yakult worth around $2 billion.[16]

Protecting Danone[edit]

Due to its narrow focus and relatively small size, Danone is potentially an attractive takeover target for its competitors, namely Nestlé and Kraft Foods. In mid-July 2005, the share price of Danone rose 20% within two weeks on rumours of a bid approach by PepsiCo, although this intention was denied.[17] Upon realising that a takeover of a national treasure such as Danone by a foreign company was indeed possible in the capital markets, the "economically patriotic"[18] French government stepped in by drafting a law to protect companies in "strategic industries" such as Danone[19] from takeover. This has been dubbed the "Danone Law".[20]

Speculation was renewed once again in mid-2006, when PepsiCo declared its intention to grow significantly in France through a sizeable non-hostile acquisition,[21] and Kraft was also reported in Le Figaro, a French daily newspaper, as not having ruled out an acquisition on French soil.[22] The stock market apparently marked down the possibility of a bid by PepsiCo following Danone's acquisition of Numico.[23]

Corporate governance[edit]

Danone head office

Danone's Change in Governance[edit]

On September 2, 2014, Danone’s Board of Directors voted to separate the functions of Chairman and CEO:[24]

- Chairman of the Board of Directors of Danone: Franck Riboud

- CEO: Emmanuel Faber

The Board of Directors[edit]

As of December 12, 2014, the 15 members of the Board of Directors and the Secretary of the Board of Directors are as follows :

  • Franck Riboud - Chairman of the Board of Directors of Danone
  • Emmanuel Faber - Vice-Chairman of the Board of Directors and CEO of Danone
  • Bruno Bonnell - Chairman of I-VOLUTION
  • Richard Goblet d'Alviella - Executive Chairman of Sofina SA
  • Jacques-Antoine Granjon - Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Vente-privé
  • Marie-Anne Jourdain - Director representing Danone's employees
  • Jean Laurent - Lead Independent Director of Danone and Chairman of the Board of Directors of Foncière des Régions
  • Gaëlle Olivier - Chief Executive Officer, AXA Asia General Insurance
  • Benoît Potier - Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of L'Air Liquide SA
  • Isabelle Seillier - Head of Financial Institutions EMEA of J.P. Morgan
  • Mouna Sepehri - Executive Vice-President of Renault
  • Jean-Michel Severino - Head of I&P SARL (Investisseurs & Partenaires)
  • Virginia A. Stallings - Professor of Pediatrics at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
  • Bettina Theissig - Director representing Danone's employees
  • Lionel Zinsou-Derlin - Chairman of PAI Partners SAS
  • Laurent Sacchi - Company Secretary of the Board and Executive Vice-President Chairman's Office

The Executive Committee[edit]

As of February 20, 2015, the members of the Executive Committee are as follows:[25]

  • Emmanuel Faber - Vice-Chairman of the Board of Directors and CEO of Danone, appointed to the Executive Committee in 2000
  • Bertrand Austruy - General Secretary, appointed to the Executive Committee in 2015
  • Marc Benoît - Executive Vice President, Human Ressources, appointed to the Executive Committee in 2014
  • Cécile Cabanis - Chief Financial Officer, appointed to the Executive Committee in 2015
  • Francisco Camacho - Executive Vice President, Waters, appointed to the Executive Committee in 2011
  • Felix Martin Garcia - Executive Vice President, Early Life Nutrition, appointed to the Executive Committee in 2008
  • Flemming Morgan - Executive Vice President, Medical Nutrition, appointed to the Executive Committee in 2009
  • Jean-Philippe Paré - Executive Vice President, Research and Development, appointed to the Executive Committee in 2011
  • Pierre-André Térisse - Executive Vice President Africa, appointed to the Executive Committee in 2008
  • Gustavo Valle - Executive Vice President, Fresh Dairy Products, appointed to the Executive Committee in 2015

Head office[edit]

Danone has its head office in the 17 Boulevard Haussmann building in the 9th arrondissement of Paris.[26] Previously the company's head office and its 500 employees were located in several buildings on Rue de Téhéran in the 8th arrondissement of Paris.[27][28] In 2002 the head office moved to its current location. Frank Riboud, the Danone CEO, stated that the company remained in central Paris so the lives of the employees would not be disrupted too much.[28]

Main brands[edit]

Danone Dairy Brand logo.

In 2014, Danone's main brands are:[29][edit]

Fresh Dairy products[edit]

  • Danone - Dannon (US)
  • Activia
  • Actimel
  • Danette
  • Taillefine - Light & Fit (US)
  • Danonino
  • Gervais
  • Danacol
  • Densia
  • Danio
  • Prostokvashino
  • Oikos ...

Early Life Nutrition[edit]

  • Blédina
  • Laboratoire Gallia
  • Milupa
  • Malyutka
  • Cow&Gate
  • Bebelac
  • Karikare
  • Nutrilon - Aptamil
  • SGM
  • Dumex ...


  • évian
  • Volvic
  • Badoit
  • Aqua
  • Mizone
  • Font Vella (Spain)
  • Villa del Sur (Argentina)
  • Bonafont (Mexico)
  • Zywiec Zdrój ...

Medical Nutrition[edit]

Joint ventures[edit]

Global locations of Groupe Danone factories

Danone has adopted a strategy of growth through joint ventures, particularly in fast-growing emerging markets, because it lacked the management depth and size to grow quickly. In its markets, Danone has built an attractive portfolio in emerging markets over the past 10 years which represents 30% of its sales.[30]

Danone has continued to pursue this strategy and has recently signed joint ventures with companies such as Al Safi in Saudi Arabia (2001),[31] Yakult in India (2005) and Vietnam (2006), Alquería in Colombia (2007), and Mengniu in China (2006).[30]

Danone has been having problems with some of its other joint ventures, notably its joint venture with Hangzhou Wahaha Group (1996) and Britannia Biscuits in India (1995), which have been in high-profile disputes since early 2007 and 2006, respectively. Danone filed for arbitration with Britannia Biscuits in the Bombay High Court on 29 June; arbitration with the Wahaha Group was accepted in Hangzhou on 17 June 2007.


Under the 1995 joint venture agreement to acquire Britannia Industries, Danone agreed not to launch food brands within India without the consent of the Wadia family.[32] The partners also agreed on a right of first refusal to the other partner in the event of the other wishing to exit.[33]

In light of frustrations with the growth and marketing strategy in India, Danone initiated plans to independently invest in an Indian dairy subsidiary. In May 2007, Nusli Wadia told the Ministry of Commerce and Industry that Danone invested in Avesthagen, a Bangalore-based bio-nutrition company, in October 2006 in violation of the government's Press Note 1, 2005, which requires a foreign company to obtain the consent of its Indian joint venture partner before pursuing an independent business in a similar area, including joint ventures based purely on technical collaboration. Danone argued that Press Note 1 did not apply to it as it did not have a formal technology transfer or trademark agreement with Avesthagen, and that its 25% holding in Britannia was indirect.[34] Wadia also filed a case in the Bombay High Court for a breach of a non-compete clause in the contract. The court ordered Danone not to alienate, encumber, or sell shares of Avesthagen.[35]

In September 2007, the Foreign Investment Promotion Board of India rejected Danone's claims that it does not need a non-compete waiver from the Wadias in order to enter into business in India alone.[36]


In March 1996 Danone signed an agreement to purchase 20 percent of the Strauss Group, Israel's second largest food manufacturer. Under the agreement, Danone purchased about 20% of Strauss Dairies (today Strauss Health division) in Nahariya. Since the 1970s, Strauss Dairies had a series of partnership and knowledge agreements with the Danone Group.[37]


Danone acquired a 49.5% share in Pakistan's Continental Biscuits Limited in 1984. As part of Kraft's takeover of Danone biscuits division, this stake subsequently transferred to Kraft Foods Singapore.


Bright Dairy[edit]

In 2001, Danone acquired a 5% stake in Bright Dairy and, in March 2005, doubled its shareholding,[38] and again, to 20%, in April 2006, becoming the third largest shareholder after Shanghai Milk Group and S.I. Food, each holding 25.17%.[39] Danone and Bright set up a 50–50 yoghurt joint venture in 1992. Danone licensed Bright Dairy to produce and market products inside China using Danone brands. The joint venture underwent a stake-diversification reshuffle and went public in 2000.[40]

Shortly after increasing its stake, Danone's plans were upset when the Shanghai government announced it was to consolidate the city's food and beverages market by merging Shanghai Bright Dairy Group, the holding company for Bright Dairy, with Shanghai Sugar Tobacco Wine Co., Shanghai Agriculture Industry and Commerce Group and Jinjiang Food. The new conglomerate, named Bright Foods, would be managed by the Shanghai local administration and the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission.[39]

The parties announced in October 2007 that Danone would divest its stake by selling it to the other two main shareholders at a small profit.[40] Bright Dairy said Danone would pay 330m yuan (€31m) to terminate the existing distribution and production agreement with it.[41]


The Hangzhou Wahaha Group, the largest beverage producer in China,[42] and Danone entered into a dairy products joint venture in 1996, in which Danone held 51%. It was hailed by Forbes magazine as a "showcase" joint venture.[43]

As the businesses expanded and became more complex, Danone made several attempts to take a stake in the Wahaha companies external to the joint venture, but was rebuffed by Wahaha's General Manager Zong Qinghou.[44] Danone and Zong Qinghou had signed a deal in December 2006 allowing Danone to buy a majority stake in these non-JV operations. However, Zong had second thoughts about the deal and reneged, claiming the offer was underpriced and held out for a higher price from Danone.[45]

The dispute took on the shape of a trademark dispute, and Danone filed for arbitration in Stockholm on 9 May 2007.[40] On 4 June,[46] Danone filed suit in Los Angeles Superior Court against Ever Maple Trading and Hangzhou Hongsheng Beverage Co Ltd, companies controlled by Zong, his wife, and daughter.[47]


  • Danone Institute International is a non-profit organisation originally established in 1997 with funding from the company. The Danone International Prize for Nutrition, worth €120,000, is presented biennially to honour individuals or teams that have advanced the science of human nutrition.
  • In the 1970s, the company aired a television advertisement entitled "In Soviet Georgia" in the United States over a period of many years.
  • On 20 April 2009, Danone opened its first-ever retail operation, a 300 square meter restaurant / store / small museum, in Barcelona, Spain.[48]

Danone International Prize for Nutrition[edit]

The Danone International Prize for Nutrition is an award established in 1997 and presented every two years to honour individuals or teams that have advanced the science of human nutrition.

It is promoted by the Danone Institute International and offers a prize of €120,000.

Danone Institute International is a non-profit organisation originally established with funding from Groupe Danone.

Prize winners[edit]



In Oct. 2012, a Save the Children survey was conducted in the cities of Hohhot, Beijing, Jinan, Shanghai, Nanjing, and Shenzhen. Sixty mothers of infants 0–6 months were interviewed in each city. 40% of the mothers interviewed said they had received formula samples. Of these, 60% were provided by company representatives, and over one-third by healthcare workers. The mothers reported that samples were provided by (in order of frequency): Dumex (Danone), Enfamil (Mead Johnson), Wyeth, Abbott, Nestlé, Friso, Ausnutria and Bei-yin-mei.[53] The overall 2013 Save the Children report which includes this 2012 survey states, "If new mothers are given free samples to feed to their babies it can start a vicious circle that undermines their own ability to breastfeed. An infant satiated with formula may demand less breast milk, so the mother produces less, and that can result in her losing confidence in her ability to breastfeed."[53]


In February 2013 The Guardian reported that up until 2011, Danone subsidiary Sari Husada had midwives sign contracts to receive financial payments for selling a certain number of boxes of baby formula. According to Danone, this no longer happens, and has been replaced by a scheme which runs training for midwives. However, the main difference appears to be a change from cash to merchandise such as televisions or laptops, and often including items which are needed in the midwives' practices, such as oxygen canisters, TENS machines, and nebulisers. The Guardian has seen a spreadsheet detailing the number of new mothers contacted, the amount of 0–6 months formula sold, and the proportion of their target this represents. Danone commented: "That may still be happening, that's something we need to address." It is against Indonesian regulations to provide free samples or to directly market to healthcare workers or new mothers. In addition, Indonesia has perhaps the strictest breastfeeding law in the world. Since 2010, all babies have to be breastfed exclusively for six months, unless there were compelling medical grounds to do otherwise. Individuals potentially face criminal charges, whereas only civil charges can be brought against formula companies.

Because low-income families often do not have anything approaching dependable access to clean water and often cannot afford to even buy enough formula, a paediatrician in Indonesia was quoted as saying: "Selling formula is like the killing fields, in my opinion. The babies will die of diarrhoea and they will die of malnutrition."

Infant formula can become a significant percentage of a low-income family's budget, with the result that the family may become highly motivated to over-dilute in an attempt to stretch the product. In a case detailed in this article, a mother who is now twenty thought the contraceptives she was on were interfering with her milk supply. The midwife agreed and gave her free samples, and the mother began her then two-month-old daughter on the formula. At the time of the article, the baby was six months old and the mother and father spent 400,000 rupiah (about £26) a month on formula, which is half of her husband's monthly salary.[54]


In June 2013 the organisation was accused in Turkey of "misleading mothers with a marketing campaign that warned they might not be providing enough breast milk to their babies [and suggesting] mothers use its powdered baby milk to make up any shortfall." Danone responded that it "based its advice on WHO guidance" and claimed that both the WHO and UNICEF "endorsed the campaign." The WHO said Danone did not have permission to use its logo and asked Danone to remove its name from the company's marketing materials within 14 days while Dr Ayman Abulaban, the UNICEF representative for Turkey, said: "The Unicef Turkey office has not endorsed this campaign." UNICEF also requested that their name be removed from marketing materials.[55]


Danone got caught up the in the 2013 Fonterra recall after thousands of cans of its Nutricia brand milk formula were believed to be contaminated with botulism. After it was discovered the recall was a false alarm,[56] reports suggested Danone could be seeking as much as €300 million in damages from the New Zealand company.[57]


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  2. ^ Cite error: The named reference AR2014 was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
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  4. ^ "FY 2014 presentation". 
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  25. ^  Missing or empty |title= (help)
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  31. ^ Al Safi Danone History
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  38. ^ Danone to double Bright Dairy stake, People's Daily, 4 March 2005
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  47. ^ Danone, Wahaha set for arbitration dispute in China, Agence France-Presse story, France24, 18 June 2007
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  49. ^ "Gökhan S. Hotamisligil receives 9th Danone International Prize for Nutrition". Harvard School of Public Health. Retrieved 11 December 2014. 
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  52. ^ Rockefeller University: "Obesity researcher awarded Danone nutrition prize"
  53. ^ a b SUPERFOOD FOR BABIES: How overcoming barriers to breastfeeding will save children's lives, Save the Children (UK version), 2013, Ch. 6 "breast-milk substitute companies facing conflict of interest," page 35 (47 in PDF), footnote 31 describing the survey includes " . . Within each city, 60 mothers of infants aged 0–6 months were interviewed (through randomised selection within the waiting areas) in one MCH Hospital, one level-3 comprehensive (the highest level in China) hospital MCH Division, one level-2 comprehensive hospital MCH Division – ie, 20 mothers with babies 0–6 months old from each facility were interviewed. . "
  54. ^ "Baby health crisis in Indonesia as formula companies push products". The Guardian. 15 February 2013. Retrieved 16 February 2013. 
  55. ^ Newman, Melanie; Wright, Oliver (29 June 2013). "Exclusive: After Nestlé, now Aptamil manufacturer Danone is hit by breast milk scandal Danone accused of misleading mothers and misrepresenting UN". The Independent (London). Retrieved 29 June 2010. 
  56. ^ No botulism bacteria found in Fonterra whey. 3 News NZ. 28 August 2013.
  57. ^ Fonterra in talks with Nutricia owners. 3 News NZ. 2 October 2013.

External links[edit]