Danone research taps new probiotics

By Chris Mercer

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Microbiology Bacteria Danone

Danone, France's iconic dairy group, is working with a prestigious
French research institute to find new probiotic strains for dairy
products and understand more about how the 'friendly bacteria'

Danone announced it was busy analysing its 3,000 lactic ferments, a collection built up since 1919, with the help of France's Pasteur Institute.

"We expect to find new probiotic strains,"​ said Danone spokesperson Agnès Berthet to www.DairyReporter.com​. She said there were no specific targets but that 10 new strains would be good.

The company refused to disclose the cost of the project, but said it spent around €130m, or one per cent of net sales, on research every year.

The partnership with Pasteur started last year and is currently set to run for another three years.

"What we also really want to do is understand the mechanisms of probiotics. We know the effects, but we don't know exactly what is happening in the organism,"​ said Berthet.

She said Danone went to the Pasteur Institute because it had testing methods that could be applied to probiotics. Pasteur is renowned for its expertise in microbiology and immunology.

Alice Dautry, managing director of the Pasteur Institute, said the Danone partnership would help the Institute to understand more about the way probiotics work too.

"We will thus be carrying on the work of Elie Metchnikoff, the Russian scientist Louis Pasteur welcomed in 1888, just as the Institute opened, and who was one of the first to take an interest in the influence of lactic bacteria on health."

It is still unclear which product areas Danone may choose to target with any new probiotic strains, although Berthet said the market for yoghurts, and particularly drinkable ranges, containing live bacteria was growing well.

Danone experienced this first-hand recently, with sales of its probiotic Activia yoghurt brand rising 30 per cent in the third quarter of this year.

Activia is set to be launched in the US at the start of next year. It contains a unique bacterial strain called Bifidus Essensis​ that claims to improve digestion and keep the body healthy.

The group's other big probiotic brand, Actimel, increased sales by 15 per cent in the same period. Market research firm AC Nieslen​ named Actimel the UK's fastest growing food brand in 2004.

Most of the major European dairy and ingredients groups believe that probiotics, live bacterial strains considered to offer digestive health benefits to consumers, will be one of the dairy sector's major growth drivers over the next few years.

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