US – Danone North America is set to overhaul the formulations of more than 70% of its plant-based drinks to improve the nutrient density across its offering as part of a range of measures that will include investing US$22m in various initiatives to promote health and wellbeing.

As far as plant-based beverages go, Danone wants the plant-based drinks to be as much like dairy milk in terms of nutrients as possible, although this can be difficult.

The yogurt giant explained that the only plant-based protein commonly used in plant-based beverages which has comparable proteins and amino acids on its own is soy.

While that’s great, soy is also a common allergen and not necessarily something everyone wants to consume.

Miguel Freitas, Danone’s vice president of scientific affairs said if Danone’s portfolio can contain more plant-based beverages that have 80% of the protein and nutrients of dairy milk, they would be doing well.

The company has also pledged to slash the sugar content of more than 95% of its children’s products to below/at 10g per 100g of product.

Globally, Danone is trying to get all of its products for children down to the 10 grams of sugar per 100 grams of product threshold, Freitas stated.

He added that the sugar-cutting mission is not an easy task considering that dairy products have naturally occurring sugars, which may increase as they are fermented into yogurt and the fruit often used to flavor yogurt also has natural sugars.

The upshot, Freitas said, is that simple reformulations using other sweeteners or different combinations of ingredients are not necessarily enough to help Danone meet this goal.

Danone’s nutrition scientists are using other tools to get there, Freitas noted. They’ve been looking at the fermentation process that makes the yogurt itself and have found different bacteria that actually can create a yogurt that tastes sweeter without adding sugars.

All new products including the reformulated plant-based beverage portfolio including brands such as Alpro, So Delicious, and Silk, ‘will reach and exceed’ nutrition targets as outlined in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, Danone said.

In addition to product improvements, Danone has also committed to US$22 million — of which US$15 million will be channeled to improve nutrition education for consumers and healthcare providers.

Another US$3 million to improve access and affordability of health-promoting and nutrient-dense products in underserved communities, and US$4 million to enhance nutrition and food security research.

The announcements were made during the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health, which was preceded by the introduction of a new definition for ‘healthy’ foods by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The new regulations favor low fat, sugar, and sodium content, which may exclude certain dairy products such as flavored yogurts and full-fat products, from the new labeling rules.

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