Danone has paid an undisclosed sum for fellow French smoothie maker Immedia in a move that bolsters its presence in the European juice market.
Immedia is the third biggest smoothie maker in France and offers Danone access to its home market.
Danone spokesperson Sabrina Schneider said the move was in line with the company’s ambition to, “explore and develop healthyfruit products” and its broader strategy to “bring health to food”.
She said it was too early to tell if Immedia may be fortified with healthy ingredients such as probiotics.
“It is a new health segment that we are interested in exploring,” she said
Earlier this year, Danone signed a deal with US-based global fruit player Chiqita, which has a smoothie called ‘Just Fruit In a Bottle’ which is present in 12 European countries including Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and the UK- but not France.
‘So this acquisition helps to complete the European market,” Schneider said of Immedia, born in 2005 and with a 2009 turnover of around €4m.
In addition to Chiqita and Immedia, Danone in July took an undisclosed 51 per cent stake in the probiotic juice brand, ProViva, owned by the Swedish dairy Skånemejerier.
The companies said expanding the €40m brand beyond its Swedish core was high on the agenda, along with confirmation of its digestive health claims that are approved in Sweden, but not as yet by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).
Some analysts have suggested Danone’s move into juice is partially motivated by the apparent dead-end it has run into in regard to the probiotic-based health claims it has pulled from the EU health claims system as well as its Activia and Actimel products in some EU countries including the UK and France.
Michael Oredsson, the CEO of Swedish company, Probi, which supplies the Lp299v strain used in the beverage, said the three companies will work together on, “health claims and regulatory approvals”.
Danone is also interested in the technology Skånemejerier and Probi have to introduce probiotics into fruit juices.
“Danone sees massive potential in probiotic fruit and vegetable juices,” said industry analyst, Julian Mellentin, at the time of the ProViva move.
“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.”
He added: “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.”