Dannon claims the company was blindsided Monday when a half-dozen agriculture groups attacked the companies shift away from GMO ingredients. Groups including the American Farm Bureau Federation sent Dannon a letter calling the switch “marketing puffery.” Dannon’s CEO says the company was surprised by the “divisive and misinformed letter.” Dannon announced back in April the company would switch to non-GMO dairy feed for three of its flagship brands and begin labeling GMO products in other brands next year. Politico reports that Dannon stood by its sustainability claims, noting the company has built a “direct and transparent” relationship with dairy farmers. However, the letter by agriculture groups says “It appears to be an attempt to gain lost sales from your competitors by using fear-based marketing and trendy buzzwords.” The groups say “neither farmers nor consumers should be used as pawns in food marketing wars.”
From the National Association of Farm Broadcasting news service.
Below is the News Release from Dannon dated April 27, 2016
Dannon Announces Breakthrough Sweeping Commitment for Sustainable Agriculture, More Natural Ingredients and Greater Transparency
Innovative Pledge redefines how the company works with dairy farmers to change its business and farming practices
(WHITE PLAINS, NY) April 27, 2016 – The nation’s leading yogurt maker, Dannon, today announced a pledge to its farmers, retail customers and consumers to further improve sustainable agriculture practices for its milk supply, to increase transparency for its portfolio of products and evolve to more natural and fewer ingredients for flagship brands.
Dannon’s Pledge key components:
– Dannon commits to offer products coming from a more sustainable agriculture by working with its dairy farmer partners and their suppliers to progressively implement the use of sustainable agriculture practices and technology that leads to better soil health, better water management, an increase in biodiversity, and a decrease in carbon emission.
– Dannon commits to bring all products from three flagship brands (Dannon®, Oikos® and Danimals®)towards the use of fewer and more natural ingredients that are not synthetic and non-GMO. Importantly, Dannon also commits that for these brands the feed of its farmer’s cows will be non-GMO, within a transition period of 3 years. The ambition is to evolve the remaining brands over time.
– To ensure full transparency for consumers, Dannon also commits to declare by December 2017 nationwide on label the presence of GMO ingredients in its products. In the meantime, if one state implements a GMO labeling requirement, since Dannon favors a nationwide labeling system, it will label the presence of GMOs nationwide according to the state requirements.
The first impact of these changes will be visible starting July 2016, when the company will move to more natural ingredients which do not contain genetically modified ingredients for its flagship brands Oikos, Danimals and Dannon. These brands represent 50 percent of the company’s current volume. For the company’s foundation ingredient – milk – Dannon is going one big step further. Starting in 2017 and completing the transformation by the end of 2018, Dannon will work with its farmer partners to ensure that the cows that supply Dannon’s milk for these flagship products will be fed non-GMO feed, a first for a leading non-organic yogurt maker. To further improve transparency, by December 2017, Dannon’s labels will note the presence of GMO ingredients in all products in which such ingredients remain. Looking further into the future, Dannon’s ambition is to also evolve the other brands in its portfolio, beyond Dannon, Oikos and Danimals, over time.
The changes will enable consumers to make everyday choices for themselves, their family and children consistent with their wish for natural and sustainable eating options, choosing which agricultural and environmental model they favor.
The broad pledge started with the relationships the company has forged with its dairy farmers. Dannon began to evolve its milk supply model in 2010 to work directly with the farms that provide its milk. “We created a new way to work with dairy farmers to improve our shared sustainability priorities,” said Mariano Lozano, President and CEO of The Dannon Company. “Our ambition is to produce healthy food that is affordable, creates economic and social value and nurtures natural ecosystems through sustainable agriculture. Although our journey is independent from that of our organic sister companies, we have learned a lot from and are inspired by Stonyfield and Happy Family.”
As expressed in the company’s pledge, Dannon’s priorities for agriculture focus on soil, water, biodiversity, carbon and energy, and animal welfare. Dannon has already started work on the first phase of its commitment by encouraging practices, such as rotating crops, managing fertilizer, pesticide and herbicide application in the production of feed for a portion of the cows providing the company’s milk supply.
“Dannon’s pledge to use more sustainable agricultural practices with their producer-partners will drive innovation and improvements and represents a bold and important step toward greater transparency,” said Dr. Molly Jahn, Agronomy Professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and former Deputy Under Secretary of Research, Education and Economics at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. “Dannon’s leadership in sustainability sets an ambitious benchmark for other dairy companies.”
Ken McCarty of McCarty Family Farms, which has been a farmer partner to Dannon since 2011, added, “We’re proud of the partnership we have with Dannon. It’s uncommon in the dairy industry to have such a close working relationship with a milk buyer. Not only does it give us reliability in the market, it gives us reliability for our families and our community. And it encourages all of Dannon’s farmer partners to convert to practices that better serve our natural resources and environment.”
Recognizing the importance of the pledge, Dannon is inviting others to join them in support of the Pledge. To learn more about the pledge, visit www.DannonPledge.com.
“It’s our mission to bring health through food to as many people as possible,” said Lozano. “And it’s our passion to help people enjoy the benefits of yogurt every day in a sustainable way. While this commitment is ambitious, we believe it’s necessary to continue to serve Americans using a sustainable and transparent model.”
About The Dannon Company
Headquartered in White Plains, New York, Dannon makes yogurt in Minster, OH, Fort Worth, TX, West Jordan, UT, and Portland, OR, and offers more than 200 different flavors, styles and sizes of cultured refrigerated and frozen dairy products to serve the diverse needs of its retail and foodservice customers. Dannon brings health through food to as many people as possible via its wide offering of delicious and nutritious fresh and frozen yogurts. Dannon is committed to encouraging Americans to eat one yogurt every day with a convenient, popular and nutrient dense food as a simple step that can help Americans achieve healthy dietary patterns.
Dannon is a subsidiary of Danone, and Danone is the top-selling brand of yogurt worldwide, sold under the names Dannon and Danone. For more information, visit dannon.com.