FRANCE – French beverage giant Danone is expanding its plant-based capabilities in France with a new US$58 million injection into its Villecomtal-Sur-Arros facility. 

According to a statement from the company, the capital injection will enable the facility to be converted to a plant-based production site for its Alpro site. 

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

The conversion of the factory reflects changing consumer preferences in Europe where people are moving to plant-based dairy alternatives for environmental and health reasons.  

Animal activists have also been stepping up efforts against dairy production with Arla UK having one of its facilities barricaded by activists demanding the dairy convert to plant-based production by 2025.  

A new report by the European bank ING finds that the plant-based alternatives market in the EU and the UK will be worth €7.5 billion by 2025, compared to €4.4 billion in 2019 – an increase of over 70% in just six years.   

François Eyraud, managing director of Danone fresh products France, said: “We are observing the enthusiasm of consumers for vegetable recipes, which constitutes a simple solution for those who wish to adopt a more varied and diverse diet. More than ever, we believe in vegetable and dairy offers.” 

He continued: “This project would allow Villecomtal-sur-Arros to support a growing market by becoming a benchmark site in Europe for the production of vegetable drinks mainly based on oats”. 

Danone also plans to invest €24 million in its sites in Bailleul (Hauts De France), Paysde Bray (Normandy) and Saint-Just-Chaleyssin (Auvergne Rhône-Alpes). 

Earlier this year, Danone launched Alpro drinks production at its Labinsk plant in the south of Russia. 

As plant-based dairy grows in popularity, the European Bank report stated that taste, texture, and composition was one of the  “three important weak spots” when compared to their dairy counterparts.  

Danone has acknowledged this challenge when it comes to dairy and in August launched “plant-based 2.0” to spur the development of new technologies that deliver ‘dairy-like’ drinks. 

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