FRANCE — French multinational dairy company Danone SA has completed the sale of North American plant-based foods brand Vega to WM Partners, an Aventura, Fla.-based private equity investment fund focused on the health and wellness industry. 

Vega offers a range of health and wellness powders made with such ingredients as sprouted whole grain brown rice and pea protein, chia and hemp seeds, organic peanut butter, and such vegetables as spinach, broccoli, and kale.   

Danone had acquired the Vega brand in 2017 through its US$12.5 billion purchase of WhiteWave Foods but was forced to sell it as part of a portfolio review aimed at delivering 3% to 5% profitable growth. 

Following its sale, Vega joins an investment portfolio that includes Ultima Replenisher, Great Lakes, Jade Leaf, and FGO. WM Partners said its team has been monitoring Vega’s growth and trajectory in recent years. 

“We believe we will be able to leverage our operational know-how to continue to grow Vega, as well as leverage Vega’s distribution strengths with our current portfolio of brands,” said Jose Minski, co-founder of WM Partners. 

A new improved milk alternative 

Meanwhile, Danone has announced plans to offer new plant-based milk alternatives with improved taste and texture later this year.  

Shane Grant, co-chief executive officer of Danone and CEO of North America noted that the current landscape in the beverage is based on an ingredient analog: almond, oat, soy and that taste, and product texture were the major barriers to growth.  

Grant revealed that the company was going against the norm to produce new dairy products under Silk NextMilk, under So Delicious Wondermilk and under Alpro Not Milk. 

“We know from consumer testing we can match or better traditional dairy milk preference, recruiting new plant-based users, and we intend to launch these platforms with scale later in (the second half).” 

Danone’s alternative dairy plans were revealed during the release of the company’s first half results where the company bounced back to profitable growth with net income rising to €1.07 billion (US$1.27 billion) from €1.02 billion (US$1.21 billion) in the year prior. 

First-half net sales dropped 2.9% to €11.84 billion ($14.07 billion) from €12.19 billion. A negative 5.5% impact of exchange rates drove the decrease. On a like-for-like basis, sales increased 1.6%. In the second quarter, sales increased by 3.6% with the increase at 6.6% on a like-for-like basis. 

Within the company’s essential dairy and plant-based segment in the first half, sales were up 3.2% on a like-for-like basis. 

The company noted that sales of plant-based segment grew by double-digit percentages for a sixth straight quarter, proof that further investments in the sector will contine paying. 

In line with this strategy, Grant revealed that Danone in the United States is investing in a “Milk of the Land” campaign for almond-based milk alternatives and executing a full restage of oat-based milk alternatives under the Silk brand.  

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