French multinational food company Danone says it plans triple sales of plant-based health foods by 2025, from EUR1.7 billion to EUR 5 billion. 

The announcement came at a recent investor conference, where the company’s CEO Emmanuel Faber said that Danone’s plant-based business could be as big as its traditional yogurt business within 10 years. 

Danone, whose brands include Activia, Actimel, Alpro, Evian and Nutricia, is responding to what it says is the “huge growth opportunity” of the plant-based category. Plant-based product claims increased 62% globally between 2013-2017, and sales of plant-based and vegan food formats have surged. For example, Mintel reports that sales of dairy-free milk sales in the US grew by 61% over the past five years, surging to USD2 billion in 2017. 

That growth has been partly at the expense of conventional dairy product sales, something else that Danone will have been acutely aware of. Market research company Nielsen recently reported that the top three fastest-growing food categories were firmly in the ‘healthy’ camp – plant-based, fruit and produce, while four of the five weakest have been dairy based: milk products, yoghurts, other dairy and cheese.

As Bloomberg put it, Dabone “placed a bet on veganism with its 2017 acquisition of US-based WhiteWave Foods. As well owning leading US organic milk producer Horizon Dairy, Whitewave also owns a string of plant-based brands, including Silk, So Delicious and Vega.  Danone says Whitewave’s established presence in the plant-based category will help it rapidly grow sales in the key US market.  

Under its plans to expand its worldwide plant-based sales, Danone will  start selling plant-based yogurts under Activia, its largest brand, in countries like Spain, France and the U.K. within the next 12 months.

Currently milk alternatives such as soya and almond account for around 80% of Danone’s plant-based sales, while 15% come from non-dairy yoghurts and 5% from desserts. Faber told investors Danone now wants to expand into non-dairy ice cream, vegan cheese and vegan baby food.