The Dannon Company: Bringing Health Through Food

Partner spotlight from PHA’s 2016 Annual Progress Report

Image of young child eating an apple in Partnership for a Healthier America's 2016 Annual Progress Report. Jessica Smerling remembers her mother stocking the fridge with Light & Fit yogurt when she was in high school. For the Smerlings, maintaining a healthy lifestyle came with its challenges, but the family focused hard on healthier eating to overcome any genetic predispositions that could keep them from maintaining a healthy weight. Yogurt, she said, became a staple.

But never did she imagine she’d one day play a role in making this family favorite even better. Over the past several years, Smerling, a registered dietitian, has been part of the team guiding Dannon in fulfilling its commitment to reformulate its products to increase their nutrient density and reduce sugar and fat. Dannon has exceeded its commitment to PHA in each of these categories.

Being able to help improve products that can help people have healthier diets is a dream come true for me,” said Smerling, whose career in nutrition stemmed from her personal journey to better health. “I even got to help improve a product – Light & Fit – that remains a brand that I eat regularly; I’m definitely a Dannon girl.

Smerling, a Senior Manager in Nutrition Science, went to work for Dannon precisely because of the company’s mission: To bring health through food to as many people as possible.

Even before its partnership with PHA, signed in 2013, Dannon’s commitment to providing healthier products was evident. Starting back in the late 1990s, parent company Danone began to divest itself of all products that didn’t focus squarely on better health. More recently locally in the U.S., the company reduced the sugar content of its Danimals smoothie line for kids by 25 percent.

100% of Dannon’s children’s products meet PHA’s standards for sugar. (<23 g per 6 oz ) in 2016

Dannon chose to partner with PHA because the organization provided credibility for its partners through its use of third-party verification and because they shared a belief in improving public health by transforming the marketplace.

“PHA understood that if things were going to change, they needed to work with business partners who were committed to further improving their products and had a goal of helping Americans choose better diets,” said Philippe Caradec, Dannon’s VP of Corporate Affairs.

“We also wanted to have that visibility and share our experiences with others, help them understand that this was positive for business and something more companies should be doing.”

Michael Neuwirth, Dannon’s Senior Director of Public Relations, even spoke with Wall Street analysts at a meeting arranged by PHA to underscore that selling healthier products was both good for consumers and good for business. In fact, after reducing the sugar content in its Danimals yogurt, the product jumped from the number two selling spot to become the leading product for kids in the yogurt category.

The company has also helped convene two conferences on the importance of dietary guidelines, working with other PHA partners such as The Ohio State University to drive discussions on how the market can provide healthier choices.

Delivering better-for-you products is an important step, but Dannon’s commitment to health doesn’t end there, emphasized Caradec. “We want to carry the message forward.”

View The Dannon Company’s 2016 Annual Progress Report verified results.

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