Danone to switch dairy factory to plant-based Alpro

A view taken on November 23, 2020 shows a part of the entrance to the Danone factory in Bailleul, northern France. (Photo by DENIS CHARLET/AFP via Getty Images)

Danone, the world’s largest yoghurt maker, plans to switch one of its big French factories to plant-based drinks next year in a bet on fast-growing non-dairy milk alternatives.

Danone said in a statement on Wednesday it will invest €43 million (£36.9m) in 2022 to convert its Villecomtal-sur-Arros dairy plant in southern France into a production site of mainly oat-based drinks for its Alpro brand.

This follows a €16.5 million investment this year in its Alpro plant in Issenheim, eastern France.

Danone, owner of the Evian water and Activia yoghurt brands, said the French market for plant-based foods has tripled in seven years and should grow another 50 per cent by 2025.

“We observe consumers’ interest in plant-based recipes, which are a simple solution for those who want a more varied and diversified diet,” Danone France’s François Eyraud said.

The factory will be converted in the autumn of 2022 and make its first Alpro-branded drinks from the second quarter of 2023.

Danone acquired Alpro in 2017 via its $12.5 billion (£9.25bn) acquisition of US organic food producer WhiteWave as it tried to capitalise on healthier eating trends.

In February, Danone agreed to buy US plant-based foods specialist Earth Island, in a deal that would help it reach a target of generating €5 billion of plant-based sales worldwide by 2025.