Danone is aiming to develop a portfolio of “manifesto brands” that reflect the company’s commitment to deliver a positive food future.
The French diary giant, which spans a stable of brands including Activia yoghurt and Evian mineral water, is using its new One Planet, One Health positioning to communicate the company’s desire to help consumers make healthier choices.
The business is embracing what it sees as a revolution among consumers to reclaim their connection with food, breaking down the barriers to establish what global CEO Emmanuel Faber calls “food sovereignty”.
“When you see that a third of young adults in the UK would not be able to say that there is a connection between bacon and pigs, this is problematic,” Faber tells Marketing Week.
“It’s really about a movement that goes beyond the question of sustainability. What we’re suggesting is a pretty radical new approach to support people in their choice for healthier and more sustainable eating.”
The new brand identity, including a revamped logo, will appear in all Danone corporate communications by the end of 2018, while the rollout across the brand portfolio will be a more gradual process.
“The commitment that we’ve made is that our brands will be what we call ‘manifesto brands’, which means brands that are characterised by the way they engage with consumers, the positioning, communication, marketing and the product themselves,” Faber explains.
If we’re true to the vision it has to change the way we operate as a company to ensure that our people have more to say about how we manage our business.
Emmanuel Faber, Danone
“Not every brand [across the portfolio] is ready today. We want our brands to earn the right to carry that ambition.”
The positioning is based on a manifesto written by Danone employees over a two-year period. Some 50,000 people from the global workforce connected to discuss the grassroots campaign via the company’s Facebook at Work social platform.
“The whole concept behind food sovereignty is for us to surrender control and give the power back to people, and how credible would we be to say that to our consumers if we don’t start with our employees?” questions Faber.
“If we’re true to the vision it has to change the way we operate as a company to ensure that our people have more to say about how we manage our business.”
This desire for organisational change is reflected in Danone’s ambition to become a fully fledged B Corp, defined as a business certified as having met rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency.
Danone is currently collaborating with the team at B Lab to design an accreditation system that works large scale organisations, although its Danone Spain business is already B Corp certified. As its various brands reach B Corp certification Danone intends to incorporate the B Corp sign, alongside the new company logo, on the packaging in order to give consumers greater reassurance.
“People want to know how their food has been made, how its been grown and prepared, and who are the people behind the brand. This is what B.Corp is providing, it shows the intention of people behind the brand,” says Faber.
Targeting profitable growth
Danone is in the midst of a three-year €1bn (£880m) cost-saving initiative after admitting in February that the turnaround of its European dairy business was taking longer than expected.
Danone’s like-for-like sales growth slowed in 2016, rising 2.9% to €21.9bn (£19.2bn), compared to an increase of 4.4% in 2015.
Faber’s aim is to return Danone to “strong profitable and sustainable growth” by 2020 by cutting spending on marketing and “general expenses”. The Danone CEO is, however, keen to stress that the cost-cutting programme has no direct connection to the launch of the One Planet, One Health positioning.
“We need to be more efficient in the way we work and the way we spend. We are a large company, but we are not organised as a big multinational company and we still have a lot of progress to make in our collective efficiency,” Faber explains.
“Therefore we have identified opportunities, in particular when it comes to the way we spend on a number of services that we are using as a company, which will ensure that we have additional resources to grow our business and accelerate our innovation.”
A notable move to secure future business success came in April with the $10bn (£7.9bn) acquisition of US plant-based food and beverage business WhiteWave Foods, which includes the Alpro soya brand.
The deal looks set to double Danone’s US business and propel the company into the list of the top 15 food and beverage producers in the US.
Following the acquisition WhiteWave, was formally incorporated into DanoneWave, a new holding company that is also a public benefit corporation, the US equivalent of a B Corp.
“The acquisition is growing our presence in North America and we need that to be able to serve American consumers at scale with a unique and unparalleled portfolio of healthy categories,” adds Faber.
“If you can imagine the global champion of dairy and the global leader of plant-based protein weren’t really friends and now suddenly they sit together on the same side of the border. It’s not about fighting against each other, it’s about finding new solutions.”