Danone North America may soon leverage artificial intelligence to improve its vegan dairy products. The leading food and drink brand will work with San Francisco-based biotechnology company Brightseed to discover new health benefits in soybeans.
Brightseed’s AI catalogs and identifies new nutrient sources in edible plants that can be used to improve human health. The company’s first discovery was a phytonutrient that could help the liver more effectively metabolize fats and counteract inflammation.
“At Brightseed we believe that we’re at the tipping point of significantly activating food for health and wellness. We analyze plants at the molecular level in order to understand the specific roles that nutrients play in the proper functioning of our bodies,” Sofia Elizondo, Cofounder and COO of Brightseed, explained in a statement.
With Danone, Brightseed aims to use its platform to identify new health benefits in the food giant’s soybeans.
Takoua Debeche, SVP Research & Innovation at Danone North America, said in a statement that the partnership could also help the company “improve and optimize the taste, texture, and nutritional aspects of our products.”
Danone Builds a Plant-Based Dairy Empire
Best known for dairy products such as yogurt brands Activia, Danone, and Oikos, the international company made a move into plant-based dairy products with the acquisition of The WhiteWave Foods Co. for $12.5 billion in April 2017.
WhiteWave was the parent company to a number of well-recognized brands in the plant-based dairy space, including So Delicious and Silk in the U.S. and Alpro in Europe. CEO Emmanual Faber told Food Business News at the time that the acquisition placed Danone as a leader in “some of the fastest-growing, health-focused categories.”
Vegan milk and dairy is one of the strongest categories in the plant-based food market, according to the Good Food Institute (GFI), a nonprofit that advocates for the acceleration of plant-based and alternative proteins. Dairy-free milk products alone are worth $2 billion. They account for 40 percent of the overall plant-based food market and 14 percent of all dollar sales of retail milk.
Dairy-free yogurt and ice cream—sold under Danone’s brands Silk, So Delicious, and Alpro—are also fast-growing. Dollar sales for both categories grew 95 percent and 34 percent respectively over the past two years.