PRESS RELEASE North Carolina Retail Merchants Association (NCRMA) 209 Fayetteville St., Raleigh, NC 27601 Contact: Ann Edmondson…
CFIC is proud to name Danone North America as the organization’s 2023 Supplier of the Year. An annual award, CFIC’s retail members nominate and select the outstanding supplier based upon excellence in innovation, customer service, and involvement with CFIC. CFIC president Greg Adams presented the award at the 19th annual convention. Danone North America has been a supporter of CFIC since 2015.
CFIC reached out to Danone North America to learn more about the company, trends, and innovation.
What trends are you seeing in the marketplace?
The past few years catalyzed certain trends that are now firmly embedded in consumer behavior, continuing to reinforce the relevance of our portfolio. In particular, we’ve seen consumers continue to spend a larger proportion of their income on groceries as they eat more meals at home. This has led to unprecedented demand across categories, including our creamers and ready-to-drink coffees, which have seen double-digit growth. We have also seen that consumers are shopping in multiple channels in search for value during these inflationary times.
In addition to this, amid continued volatility, including economic uncertainty, we have seen that consumers have had to take a step back and reassess their values and priorities when it comes to purchasing decisions. Despite this context, health and nutrition have remained a top priority for consumers – but for many it is out of reach.
In fact, Danone recently commissioned a State of Nutrition Equality study to better understand consumer priorities, beliefs, barriers and expectations when it comes to nutrition, and saw that nutrition has risen to the top of the American agenda. Through the study, we saw that almost all Americans (87%) rank food accessibility (availability, affordability, quality and security) as one of the most important issues facing the nation today – on par with healthcare, jobs and the environment. Still, due to significant economic, personal and physical barriers, more than 60% of Americans do not eat what they described as very nutritious foods.
As a leading food and beverage company on a mission to bring health through food to as many people as possible, we are well poised to have a positive impact on nutrition and health. One example of how we are putting this mission into action is our recent commitment to invest $22 million by 2030 to improve access to, and availability of, nutritious and health-promoting foods in the U.S.
Tell us about Danone’s corporate responsibility initiatives and how they are being executed today.
As one of the world’s largest certified B Corps, we are committed to using our business as a force for good for the health of people, nature and communities. As part of this, we recently refreshed our global Danone Impact Journey, a concrete and measurable framework rooted in our mission, which clarifies our health and sustainability priorities and KPIs. This has allowed us to really focus in on where our business can have the most impact, as well as on issues that greatly impact the health of people and the planet. This framework is centered around three pillars: health, nature and communities:
- Health: Progress and lead on our mission to bring health through food by creating tastier and healthier food and drinks, promoting healthier options and investing in nutrition and hydration scientific research.
- Nature: Preserve and regenerate nature through working to curb GHG emissions and methane reduction, pioneer and scale regenerative agriculture, preserve and restore watersheds, drive transformation for circular and low carbon packaging and cut waste across the value chain.
- Communities: Support thriving people and communities through workforce equity and DE&I goals.
In addition to this, we engrain purpose across our portfolio, impacting a variety of communities along the way. For example, Danone’s Two Good brand is a prime example of how purpose and performance are interconnected and interdependent. Founded with the belief that you can do more with less – less sugar, more great taste – and a game-changing formula in a space of high consumer demand, Two Good was able to flip the yogurt aisle on its head with a low-sugar offering that maintains the creamy taste and texture that consumers love with Greek yogurt. Based on the premise that Less Hunger = More Good, Two Good has donated nearly 53M meals to hungry individuals in partnership with City Harvest and We Don’t Waste. Every Two Good product sold helps feed someone in need, putting consumers in the drivers’ seat when they purchase a Two Good product.
Tell us about the company’s history and legacy and how that shapes how the company does business today.
Globally, Danone is more than 100 years old. In North America, the name might conjure thoughts of beloved yogurt brand, Dannon – the first American yogurt company – and ultimately, the first national fresh dairy brand. Today, our business is so much more – we remain a transformative leader across categories.
Throughout our history, we have been led by what we call our “Dual Project” – a trailblazing vision of corporate responsibility that creates both shareholder and societal value. The Dual Project was introduced by our then-CEO Antoine Riboud, calling for a different approach to management: “Corporate responsibility does not end at the factory gate or the office door.”
Our Dual Project heritage underscores how performance and purpose are interconnected and fuel one another – it was a key driver in our path to becoming one of the first multinationals certified as a B Corp. Today, this focus on performance and purpose fuels our business – we have seen how the more we put purpose at the core of our business and infuse it throughout our entire strategy, the more competitive we become. For example, as consumers look to brands that align with their values, they choose our purpose-driven brands on the shelf.
Out of all of Danone’s products which ones do you find to be most popular in the Carolinas? How does that compare with national trends?
Across several categories, including dairy and plant-based, the Carolinas tend to follow closely with national trends. For example, in line with consumers continuing to spend a larger proportion of their income on groceries as they eat more meals at home – including an increase in consumers preparing their coffee at home – we’ve seen a large percentage of our sales in the Carolina region stem from the beverages category, including International Delight and Dunkin’ Coffee Creamers. These brands resonate heavily with consumers in the South and the superior programming support and retail execution we receive from our retail partners helps drive consumption.
The Carolinas also tend to be a heavy baking region; we are able to fulfill consumer needs with products including LOL Half & Half and Heavy Whipping Cream. In addition, flavor profiles like our International Delight Southern Butter Pecan coffee creamer flavor have, not surprisingly, proven to be a big hit in the Carolinas and the broader Southeast region.
In terms of branding and promotions, what are some of the events Danone may be planning for the Carolinas over the next 6-12 months?
Over the next several months, we have exciting plans coming up across our portfolio. We are continuing to focus on the most relevant spaces where our consumers are across ready-to-drink coffee, lower sugar, high protein and plant-based beverages.
Criteria for the CFIC Supplier of the Year include consistent and responsive customer service, and also innovation. Does Danone have core principles that are integrated into your corporate culture to address these?
At Danone North America, our mission to bring health through food to as many people as possible is central to our growth and business strategy. Meeting consumer demand while putting our mission into action is not only our approach to business but engrained in our culture.
As one of the largest Certified B Corporations, Danone North American is committed to using our business as a force for good. B Corp Certification tells customers and consumers that our company meets rigorous standards of verified performance, transparency and accountability on governance, social and environmental topics. And because B Corps must be recertified every three years, it guides us to continuously evaluate and evolve how we do business.
One of the key areas that B Lab evaluates during the certification process is how a company works with its suppliers. We have a supplier selection process and training program in line with B Lab’s recommendations, with the goal of ensuring we’re benefiting the local communities we serve while reducing transport costs and our environmental footprint. Several of our key suppliers including MVP Dairy, McCarty Family Farms, Harris Woolf Almonds have also achieved B Corp certification.
Does Danone have any charitable causes on which you focus or are there key communities you serve?
As one of the world’s largest Certified B Corps, and a company focused on bringing health through food to as many people as possible, we use our business as a force for good. Our B Corp Certification means we are legally committed to balance the financial interests of our shareholders with the social benefits we create for people, communities and the planet.
Most recently, amid the baby formula shortage in the United States, we put our mission into action to get formula into the communities of American families by increasing production, more than doubling our imports of our Neocate medical formula to the U.S., and partnering with the FDA and the White House to bring our traditional, non-medical baby formula, Aptamil, to the U.S.
In September 2022, at the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Health, Danone North America announced a $22 million investment to improve access to, and availability of, nutritious and health-promoting foods by 2030, as well as partnering with retailers and healthcare professionals to educate consumers to drive evidence-based healthy eating behaviors and diet-related health outcomes.
And through Danone Institute North America (DINA), a non-profit 501 c3 foundation center founded and funded by Danone North America, we support initiatives that promote nutrition and sustainable food systems and provide seed funding for projects. Projects focus across a range of topics, including advancing solutions for at-home food waste, increasing energy-efficient food production in food-insecure neighborhoods and improving the nutrition and sustainability profile of public school menus.
On a local level, we are committed to supporting the communities in which our employees live and work. For example, through our 25-year+ community partnership with Community Food Share, we donate an estimated 4,000 gallons of fresh organic milk to families in Colorado each week.
As a member and supporter of CFIC, what would you say to other suppliers that are not involved with CFIC to encourage them to join and participate?
CFIC brings suppliers and retailers together to build relationships, share ideas and to help serve the CPG industry – and specifically the Carolinas market. The CFIC does a great job keeping members informed of regulations and trends affecting our industry. Its meeting forums provide a great opportunity to meet with key members of the CPG community outside of just the everyday scope of our business contacts. CFIC is a family-centric organization, which gives its events a unique and enthusiastic tone and feel.
What advice would you give to a young person interested in entering the retail food industry?
The retail food industry is a fast-paced, ever-changing industry, especially in an environment that is advancing technologically amidst tremendous innovation when it comes to both food, as well as how consumers are learning about our products through digital platforms and retailers.
Being in this industry really allows you to be at the forefront – in the case of Danone – of advancing our mission of bringing health through food to as many people as possible in a tangible way. We represent categories, brands and products consumers love, want and need.
If possible, and still in school, find a CPG internship – it’s a great way to see what the industry offers. Beyond that, trust your talent, take copious amounts of notes, listen intently and be a sponge. There are expansive opportunities for career development. As part of that, be curious – question and probe, and leverage the experience of those around you to learn. That includes finding mentors early on, and later, becoming a mentor – pay it forward.
Additionally, be comfortable with discomfort, especially as it relates to building your resume and career. Work to build a career with a General Manager mentality.