Cornered by plant-based demand, the dairy industry and its food giants have no choice but to adapt. International dairy giant Danone just announced that it will convert a French dairy factory into an oat milk plant as demand for plant-based milk rapidly increases worldwide. The multinational dairy company invested $49 million to transform one of its facilities into a completely plant-based production plant. Danone aims to open its plant-based Villecomtal-sur-Arros facility by Fall 2022 in an attempt to meet growing plant-based demand within Europe and across the world.

“We observe consumers’ interest in plant-based [products], which are a simple solution for those who want a more varied and diversified diet,” General Director of Danone Products, France François Eyraud said in a statement.

Danone announced that the facility should be completely plant-based by the second quarter of 2023. The facility coincides with the companies overarching mission to increase its global plant-based sale to $6.1 billion by 2025. Recently, the food giant has adapted its product selections to accommodate a growing plant-based consumer base. The company is working to diversify its plant-based portfolio, launching its own brands and acquiring established companies.

Danone began its vegan brand expansion in 2016 when it announced that it acquired WhiteWave Foods for $12.5 billion. The acquisition brought Danone signature vegan brands including Silk, So Delicious, Vega, and Alpro. The acquisition deal resulted in a $760 million profit spike for the company, inspiring the food giant to continue expanding its plant-based offerings.

The new plant-based milk facility will be primarily dedicated to producing more of its Alpro plant-based milk and dairy products. The company announced that it is currently developing a new product line entitled “plant-based 2.0” that will be involved in Alpro Not Milk, Silk NextMilk, and So Delicious Wondermilk.

“Our mission is to continue advancing plant-based lifestyles with delicious tasting products. In five years, we hope to see more people — vegans and flexitarians alike — adding plant-based products into their everyday diets as a tasty choice,” Danone told vegconomist in an interview.

Danone is also expanding its plant-based presence within the US: The company recently acquired plant-based pioneer Earth Island – the parent company of the iconic Follow Your Heart brand. Follow Your Heart has paved the way for vegan eating across the US, developing innovative recipes for dairy-free cheese, Vegenaise, and a variety of other products. Most recently, the brand debuted a plant-based boxed macaroni, providing consumers with a healthy, vegan option in a pinch.

Plant-based milk – alongside protein alternatives – is a cornerstone of the vegan food market. A report from the Good Food Institute found that the food category is currently valued at $2.5 billion, accounting for 35 percent of the total plant-based food market. This figure is slated to grow at an exponential rate, encouraging food giants like Danone to introduce plant-based products to current selections.

The alternative dairy brands recognize the shifting consumer interest and intend to latch onto the spreading trend. Global Market Insights released a report that projects the dairy alternative market will experience an unprecedented momentum, set to reach $45 billion by 2027 with a CAGR of 10 percent. The report highlights that companies including Danone, Hain Celestial Group, Pacific Foods, Sun Opta, and more are driving the plant-based milk industry into the future by expanding product offerings and distribution efforts.

French company The Bel Group – parent company of Boursin, Babybel, and Laughing Cow – recently expanded its product portfolio to include more dairy-free products. Boursin launched a dairy-free take on one of its classic cheeses with its Boursin Dairy-Free Cheese Spread Alternative in Garlic & Herbs flavor formulated alongside Follow Your Heart. The Bel Group is also developing vegan versions of the classic red wax-packaged cheeses and Laughing Cow’s wedges.

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