You probably already know that Danone just acquired Whitewave, the plant-based, non-dairy enterprise. Our office was abuzz over this news, because we had just literally finished our benchmark studies of Whitewave’s Silk and So Delicious.

Danone strikes consumer gold

Why would a dairy giant be interested in acquiring a non-dairy giant? Because they’re in tune with what consumers want. The non-dairy category was created for people with intolerances. But now these products have become SO mainstream that most of its consumers are choosing plant-based and dairy-free because they believe it’s a healthier option. Sales of “free-from” products like non-dairy grew an incredible 36% in just one year. And this trend isn’t going away anytime soon. Danone couldn’t have picked a better time to acquire Whitewave.

So what does Danone need to know about Whitewave’s consumers?

Silk needs a deeper connection with its consumers

When we studied the relationship between Silk and So Delicious, we noticed they both had pretty average scores (which to us means huge opportunity!). Let’s start with Silk. They had the lowest scores in all three  I-Factor® categories, Comprehend, Crave and Craze,. They were particularly low in buzz around the brand. Consumers just aren’t talking about this brand.  This sort of surprised us considering they were the true pioneers in the non-dairy category. Silk’s  experience and knowledge scores (the dimensions under comprehend)  were respectable. So what does this tell us? The consumer connection is possible, but barely there at the moment. For Silk not to be a commodity, they need to dig up compelling insights and build a deeper, more lasting connection to its consumers.

Millennials love So Delicious… but Love isn’t enough

If our agency fridge is a litmus test, we would have predicted that So Delicious would win the dairy-free category. And no surprise, I-Factor® scores proved just that. They earned the highest scores in every dimension, including frequency of purchase, making lives better and consumer knowledge. And they’re an especially big hit with Millennials with 15% higher scores than the gen pop. All good news for So Delicious, but the scores showed us that the connection could be stronger. Right now consumers aren’t seeing themselves in the brand as much as they could.. If you’re listening, So Delicious? Here’s an opportunity for you.

Danone learns a lesson in letting go: Goodbye Stonyfield

In order for the Danone acquisition of Whitewave to be official, Danone needed to sell Stonyfield. Stonyfield was completely acquired by Danone 2004 and last year, Stonyfield had sales of about $370 million. But because Danone owned Stonyfield, the Department of Justice’s antitrust division almost blocked the $10 billion Danone-Whitewave acquisition citing the potential for “reduced competition in the organic milk market.” Danone agreed to sell Stonyfield for an estimated $927 million in order to get the approval from the DOJ. They obviously get the need to diversify into the Dairy Alternative category in a big way.

With all the changes Danone is going through, it is critical that they stay super in tune with ALL of their consumers, existing and new. THAT is exactly what I-Factor® can do for brands, really help them understand all of the dimensions of their relationship with today’s consumers. Ready to see what it will take to make your brand truly Irresistible? Let’s talk.