Danone develops infant formula from blend of plant and dairy protein to appeal to flexitarians

NETHERLANDS – Danone, a world-leading food company, has developed a new infant formula that blends plant and dairy ingredients to appeal to parents who want more ‘vegetarian and flexitarian’ options for their babies.

Under the Nutrilon brand of Nutricia, Danone will first launch the Dairy & Plants Blend baby formula in the Netherlands during the second half of 2022 and to other markets under Danone’s global Aptamil brand in 2023.

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Less than half (40%) of the required protein in this new recipe comes from dairy ingredients specifically casein and whey protein from cow’s milk as well as lactose (an important source of carbohydrates for babies and also an essential nutrient found in breastmilk), according to Danone.

Manuela Borella, Vice President of Global Plant-Based Strategy & Business Acceleration said the approach brings together the ‘best of both’ dairy and plant ingredients, delivering a ‘nutritionally complete’ baby food that has a 30% smaller carbon footprint than other powdered formulas.

He added that the inclusion of plant-based protein in the formulation does offer some developmental benefits.

With its ‘mild taste of plants’, the dairy and plants blend formula is intended to ‘help familiarize babies and toddlers with plant flavors in a gentle way’.

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This can help shape future food preferences, the hope being those young children will be less averse to eating their veggies as they are weaned onto solid foods, Borella explained.

Danone added that plant-based consumption is growing ‘substantially’ in Europe, giving reference to data from the Smart Protein Project that shows over one-third (37%) of EU consumers are choosing a vegan, vegetarian, or flexitarian diet.

Moreover, 69% of parents now prefer their children to eat more plant-based foods, a recent OnePoll survey revealed.

However, Danone said, until now there have been ‘few options’ for parents if they decide to move on from breastmilk and want to make food choices that are ‘healthy, more plant-based and better for the planet’.

Borella said: “We believe this new recipe fits well with our Nutrilon baby formula brand – a brand whose motto is ‘Trust your choices, trust Nutrilon’ whichever feeding journey a parent chooses – including opting for flexitarian or vegetarian diets.”

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While the concept will make its debut in the Netherlands, Danone sees wider potential for dairy and plant blends in the infant formula category.

The dairy giant expects to continue to drive innovation across its global brands to compete favorably with other companies taking an uptick in innovation in this space such as French producer Bébé M and Else Nutrition.

 Bébé M produces an organic infant formula that is dairy-free, soy-free, gluten-free, and palm oil-free while Else Nutrition has developed a 100% plant-based formula made from ingredients like almond, buckwheat, and tapioca.

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