PARIS — Danone SA plans to offer new plant-based milk alternatives with improved taste and texture later this year. Executives gave limited details on the platform during a July 29 earnings call to discuss first-half results, which saw net income jump 5%.
“The current landscape in beverage is based on an ingredient analog: almond, oat, soy,” said Shane Grant, co-chief executive officer of Danone and CEO of North America. “The opportunity we see is really the challenge of that convention. We know that in key plant-based markets like the US, 60% of consumers are not in the category. We know the barrier is primarily product taste and product texture. We will launch against this opportunity new dairy-like technology under Silk NextMilk, under So Delicious Wondermilk and under Alpro Not Milk.
“We know from consumer testing we can match or better traditional dairy milk preference, recruiting new plant-based users, and we intend to launch these platforms with scale later in (the second half).”
Paris-based Danone in the first half of the fiscal year reported net income of €1.07 billion ($1.27 billion), or €1.63 ($1.94) per share on the common stock, which was up from €1.02 billion, or €1.55 per share, in the same time of the previous year.
First-half net sales dropped 2.9% to €11.84 billion ($14.07 billion) from €12.19 billion. A negative 5.5% impact of exchange rates drove the decrease. On a like-for-like basis, sales increased 1.6%. In the second quarter, sales increased by 3.6% with the increase at 6.6% on a like-for-like basis.
Inflation, driven by milk, milk ingredients, packaging and logistics, reached almost 7% in the first half, said Véronique Penchienati-Bosetta, co-CEO of Danone and CEO of International. Inflation had an overall impact of about 420 basis points on the margin.
“Against these exceptional headwinds, we managed to deliver record-high productivity during the period with a positive contribution to margin of approximately 320 bps (basis points),” she said. “This was notably achieved through step-up productivity and new efficiency stream such as the SKU (stock-keeping unit) rationalization program.”
She said Danone expects inflation to accelerate further in the second half of the year.
Within the company’s essential dairy and plant-based segment in the first half, sales fell 2.9% to €6.41 billion from €6.60 billion. On a like-for-like basis, sales were up 3.2%. Sales grew in dairy, and plant-based grew by double-digit percentages for a sixth straight quarter. Operating profit was €584 million, down 2.7% from €598 million.
“In the US, Greek portfolio acceleration led our total yogurt business back to solid growth and winning share in (the first half),” Mr. Grant said. “Q2 performance was highlighted by the restage of Oikos, double-digit growth on Oikos Black, the launch of new Oikos Pro and core ranges, and the continued scaling of the core Two Good brand.”
Danone in the United States is investing in a “Milk of the Land” campaign for almond-based milk alternatives and executing a full restage of oat-based milk alternatives under the Silk brand, he said.
Within Specialized Nutrition in the first half, sales fell 6% to $3.51 billion from $3.74 billion. On a like-for-like basis, sales fell 2.6%. Operating profit declined 19% to €804 million from €987 million.
Within Waters in the first half, sales rose 3.5% to $1.92 billion from $1.85 billion. The increase was 4.5% on a like-for-like basis. In the second quarter, sales increased by nearly 20% on a like-for-like basis. Operating profit increased 39% to €163 million from €117 million.
“Europe delivered a steep double-digit growth with an acceleration of the recovery throughout the quarter, mainly driven by mobility recovery, increased brand support and strong market share gains,” Ms. Penchienati-Bosetta said. “Mizone in China posted its third consecutive quarter of growth.”