Global probiotics leader Danone has paid an undisclosed sum to Swedish dairy Skånemejerier for a 51 per cent stake in its probiotic juice brand, ProViva.
Expanding the €40m brand beyond its Swedish core is high on the agenda, as is confirmation of its digestive health claims that are approved in Sweden, but not as yet by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).
Fellow Swedish company, Probi the supplier of the Lp299v strain used in the beverage launched in 1994, has also benefitted in the deal with 10-year supply contracts affirmed.
The three companies will work together on, “health claims and regulatory approvals” said Michael Oredsson, CEO of Probi.
Oredsson told NutraIngredients that Danone’s marketing muscles would also help launch the brand in global markets. Presently outside of Sweden, it only has a niche presence in Finland, Denmark and the US. An attempt to launch the brand in the UK was not pursued.
Industry analyst Julian Mellentin, the editor of New Nutrition Business, said the move signaled how much value it gave to probiotic juices at a time the French dairy has withdrawn its probiotic yoghurt claim submissions from the European Union nutrition and health claims system and removed some claims from products in France, the UK and other markets.
“Danone sees massive potential in probiotic fruit and vegetable juices,” he said noting a recent joint venture with global fruit player, Chiquita.
“This development also makes sense because fruit is the future of food and health. To the average person, fruit equals ‘healthy’, and it is this consumer perspective that has driven sales of fruits such as blueberries and pomegranate, as well as fruit smoothies, in recent years.”
After publication of this story, a Danone spokesperson contacted NutraIngredients to say the company had bought into ProViva because it was interested in the probiotic fruit technology and the Swedish market.
The dairy was moving into fruit because, "fruit was a good vector for health products".
"It makes sense given our health mission," she said.
Mellentin observed that the strength of the scientific backing for the Probi strain and ProViva added to the attraction of the investment for Danone.
“The EU’s new and extremely strict health claim regulation should actually work in ProViva and Danone’s favour, since the digestive health benefits of ProViva are substantiated by a large body of peer-reviewed clinical studies – as the EU requires health claims to be these days – and there are very few products that can boast such a body of science behind them.”