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Dannon removes growth hormone from dairy products

By Lorraine Heller , 23-Feb-2009

Dairy giant Dannon has said it is phasing out milk from rBST-treated cows, a commitment that parallels the move announced by competitor General Mills earlier this month.

Dannon said its entire product range in the US will be free of the much criticized dairy cow growth hormone by the end of this year.

 

The company, which claims 80 per cent of its milk is already ‘rBST free’, said the move is a result of consumer feedback. “This is a response to our market evaluation and consumer preference,” Dannon’s senior director of public relations Michael Neuwirth told DairyReporter.com.

Safe but rejected

rBST (recombinant bovine somatotropin) is a synthetic hormone that promotes milk production in cows. Also known as rBGH, the hormone was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1993, but has nevertheless generated heated opposition from consumers wishing to avoid it.

This has resulted in a host of milk and other dairy products carrying ‘rBST-free’ labels, which have, in turn, been accused of unfairly skewing the market against products that do not carry the labels.

Earlier this month, General Mills said it would reformulate its category-leading Yoplait yoghurt brand with rBST-free milk. The commitment, which the firm expects to meet by August this year, was again in response to consumer demand.

Dannon confirmed to DairyReporter.com that it is also taking the leap, but said it has not made any formal announcements.

“When General Mills make their announcement, we naturally got many questions. This is something we’ve been working on for some time but because there is no real safety issue here we’ve been quite low-key about it,” said Neuwirth.

Dannon has three dairy plants in the US, located in Utah, Texas and Ohio. The company said its Utah and Ohio plants will make the switch away from rBST milk during the third quarter this year. The Texas plant will become rBST-free “shortly after”, with a target of the end of 2009.

“It’s very much a regional question. In Ohio, for example, nearly all milk in that region is already rBST-free, whereas in Texas it is less so,” explained Neuwirth.

rBST-free dominates market

Dannon currently produces 100 different dairy SKUs for the US market. Its leading products in the category are Activia, Light & Fit, DanActive and Danimals.

The company claims to hold around one third of the US dairy market. General Mills is said to hold another third, while a host of smaller companies make up the final third.

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