Building on longstanding nutritional improvement history, Danone made commitments in 2016 to reach stringent nutrition targets derived from international recommendations by 2020, including maximum thresholds for energy, sugar and saturated fats, and minimum amounts for protein and calcium, among others. It defined bold reformulation and innovation for top brands in dairy, aquadrinks (low-sugar beverages) and early life products in order to deliver tasty products with an improved nutrition profile while keeping consumer preference, with a specific focus on lowering sugar content – a key priority for early life, children and tweens brands.
Danone research & innovation, marketing, sales, quality, procurement, with the strong support of the top management, ingredient suppliers, governments.
By the end of 2019, 82% of the volumes of products Danone sold during the year were compliant with its 2020 nutrition targets, unlike the 67% registered at the end of 2016. Reformulation resulted in a 12.4% reduction in added sugars since 2014 in dairy products globally, of which a 22% reduction was in products for children and tweens. Added sugars decreased by 66% between 2016 and 2019 in early life nutrition products, and 98% of aquadrinks contained less than 5% added sugar (less than half that in regular soft drinks). Reformulation and innovation delivered a significant contribution to national reformulation roadmaps launched by local authorities in different countries (e.g., the UK, Italy, US) in collaboration with local stakeholders (e.g., trade association, scientific societies).
The main barrier faced was consumer acceptance of products that are less sweet, especially in countries where local governments did not foster a global sugar reduction market dynamic. In Europe, stringent European Union regulations on nutrition claims (sugar reduction means companies can only list it for products containing 30% less sugar content than the market average) limit communications from companies about small sugar reductions to consumers. For these reasons, successful reformulation required a step-by-step approach over a long period of time, mobilizing significant company resources (people, budget).