APFI Interviews Emmanuel Faber, CEO Of Danone, Regarding Changes In The F&B Industry

Friday, July 6th, 2018

What are some of the challenges Danone faces with the rapid rise in the Asian processed food industry?

Our ambition, at Danone, is to bring health through food to as many people as possible through our unique portfolio of healthy products that cater to the different stages of people’s lives, their needs, restrictions and cultural environment. With other food companies, we are addressing some of the consequences of the very rapid change in dietary habits in many countries in Asia, including the rise in consumption of processed food. Economic development and prosperity have given people many new choices, and greatly reduced the prevalence of hunger and undernutrition. At the same time, we see rising rates of another kind of malnutrition – linked to the overconsumption of foods high in salt, fat, and especially sugar. Adult and child obesity is on the rise in many Asian countries, and becoming a burden to health-care systems. We continue for instance to improve the nutritional profile of our Growing Up Milks, in line with the company’s Nutrition Commitments. We also support educational campaigns on healthier eating in many markets. In Indonesia, we work with the Ministry of Health to take the message of healthier hydration to millions of schoolchildren, to reduce their consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages.

We also see challenges in the area of packaging, especially plastics. In some markets, development of mass consumption in packaged goods has not been matched by a parallel development in waste management and recycling systems. Our iconic brand Danone-AQUA just announced major commitments in its home country, Indonesia, to make major step towards circularity of the plastic we use. On top of our own commitments, we are also starting a new movement called #BijakBerplastik to engage our fellow Indonesians in contributing to increase plastic waste collection, support nationwide recycling education while accelerating plastic bottle innovation. It will take a collective effort from everyone but I believe that, together, we can win the global war against plastic.

We are talking about Asia here but in fact, overweight-related issues and waste management are global concerns. Today, Danone’s ambition is to be a game-changer at a global level, by offering positive solutions to protect the planet and to foster healthier and more sustainable eating and drinking habits. This has inspired the definition of our nine 2030 goals to deliver our ‘One Planet. One Health’ vision.


What are some of the challenges in terms of implementing the “One Planet, One Health” aim in this part of the world?

With regard to bringing our ‘One Planet. One Health’ vision to the Asia region, we see only opportunities.

Our mission is to bring health through food to as many people as possible, and Asia has a great richness and depth of culture, including food culture, with traditions of healthy eating and varied diet that go back centuries, and are still evident everywhere today – from the exclusive sushi restaurants of Tokyo to the popular street-food markets of Singapore. For us, the food revolution means seeking innovation that is embedded in local eating habits and community needs. Recent examples are the introduction of natural, additive-free yogurts in Japan, high-protein Yopro yogurt in dairy-friendly Australia, and Caaya cold tea, inspired by traditional local teas, in Indonesia. Our successful Protinex range in India offers more general nutrition support to young people and adults. We recently also introduced a range of medical nutrition products in this country, addressing for the first time the needs of children with metabolism issues, or severe cow’s milk allergy.

The health of people cannot be separated from the health of the planet. Asia is the home of many of our most successful social programs and initiatives to preserve the environment – to protect watersheds, and encourage afforestation in Indonesia and China; to develop advances in productivity alongside sustainability in agriculture in India; or to address pressing issues such as plastic waste, as already mentioned, or the lack of access to clean and abundant water in Cambodia and elsewhere.


Can disruptive technology help with the food revolution?

Disruptive technology has probably played a role in all modern revolutions, and digital revolution is certainly changing everything about the way we reach consumers – how we learn from them, how we communicate with them, and how we deliver to their door or their nearest convenience store. We see all these ‘disruptions’ as opportunities to reinvent the way we engage with people. If we look at China for instance, we are founding new ways to connect with millennial parents via our two infant formula brands Aptamil and Nutrilon that launched two hugely successful marketing platforms and opened digital stores on the WeChat app, to reach its more than 800 million active users. We also leverage a strategic alliance with Lazada in South-East Asia to offer convenient ordering solutions, personalized service and exclusive content through and on their platforms, thus creating a superior experience for the ever-growing number of online consumers across the region.

New technology also allows us to develop positive solutions to protect the environment and preserve natural resources. A great example of this is when Evian unveiled last year a state-of-the-art carbon-neutral bottling site, with new technology and high-quality processes aimed at reducing the carbon footprint across all our production cycle, from design to transportation and recycling.


What are some ways in which marketing messages have changed over the years in the F&B industry?

Over the last decades, the way people think about food and drink has evolved. Today, they carefully read product packaging to understand how the food was prepared, where and how the ingredients were grown and who the people behind the brand are. I think that, as a leading food and beverage company, we have a key role to play in reconnecting our brands and our consumers to the food ecosystem. To do so, since 2007 we have voluntary provided extensive nutritional information to consumers, such as a detailed nutritional table on the back of each product, summarized nutritional information on the front of each pack and a contact for the consumer to get further product and nutritional information.

We also believe that marketing can be used to encourage people, and especially children, to enjoy a healthy diet from an early age. For instance, Volvic developed collectible bottles featuring popular superheroes and characters from Frozen and Star Wars to make hydration more fun for kids.

Marketing practices have considerably changed but we can see through many examples that it can still be a powerful and positive tool to educate and inspire healthier habits for people and the planet.



Want more insider news? Subscribe to our e-book now!