Could you tell us about your position and the actions of Les Prés rient Bio?
I am Managing Director of Les Prés rient Bio, a subsidiary of Danone in France. It is a legal entity in its own right and not just a brand. This decision was taken 13 years ago in order to maximize the success of the project (business and goal): thinking as a company and not as a brand among others allows us to build the strategy, the business plan + the goal and the impact on stakeholders; the success of les 2 vaches as a legal entity made it possible to be quite independent and free in our choices (vs. Danone group).
Les prés rient bio accounts for €60 million of turnover with ultra-fresh organic products (range of fresh cheese desserts and stirred yoghurts).
In 2019, les 2 vaches was leader on the organic ultra-fresh market, which represents €300 million.
You gave a speech during our CNE PACK FOCUS conference on November 6th, 2019, about “Environmental claims on packaging: towards a responsible communication”.
Could you remind us why you launched a yogurt pot made of PLA (polylactic acid) for les 2 vaches?
The main reason is that we had to invest in equipment to regain productivity: given the 20% annual growth of les 2 vaches products, we faced a situation of line saturation. So we seized this opportunity to challenge the PS material (polystyrene) of the pot and at the same time to significantly improve the impact of the packaging on shelves (marketing and design).
We looked into numerous possibilities for the material by considering the economic and ecological angles, the technical feasibility, the Capex, etc. We strived for environmental improvement, opposed to PS, even if, as I mentioned in the CNE morning session, it is just a little step forward. The project of using a new material is difficult to promote through storytelling so it took time to convince our internal stakeholders. Four years ago, we chose the option of paper-banded PLA.
The success of the project can in fact be explained by a global product mix (impact on shelves, fair trade certification, etc.): the PLA supports the product and also contributes to the added value.
The emergence of new ways of consumption (nomadism, E-commerce, etc.) or distribution (bulk, etc.) is a reality. How does Danone include these topics, expressed in its “one planet, one health” strategy, in relation with the Fair Packaging concept?
I’m going to answer based on the vision of Les Prés rient Bio (even if it is consistent with Danone’s projects).
Since huge changes are happening, we have to take action. How can we make things move, starting with the classic pot, without sticking to a single solution?
Strategic thinking depends on 2 things:
– The industrial object: we have to ensure the continuity of the business, but we cannot do nothing. The idea we have to work on is using bio-sourced material and continuously improving the PLA (e.g. by eliminating GMO issues, irrigation, competition with food, etc.). We also have to rethink the item, with unit pots or x2 pots (e.g. made of PET or cardboard-plastic packaging, considering the recycling aspect).
– The container: we have to work on the size of the consumer unit and possibly change for larger containers with alternative solutions to the pot (e.g. reusable bags) or bulk, which was recently tested for two weeks to understand consumer expectations/needs and habits. This raises two issues to be addressed:
- The economical aspect because bulk is cheaper for the consumer but more expensive for the producer due to maintenance, technology, hygiene and regulations.
- The legal void around this distribution method, especially when determining the responsibility of the stakeholders in the supply chain, regarding the hygiene of the consumer’s container in particular.
What are the topics related to packaging that you consider to be priorities and that the CNE could look into during work groups or other types of communication events (informative sessions, etc.)?
Many questions arise regarding the method of bulk distribution, and the CNE is legitimate to shed light on the subject, contribute to its progress and promote good practices useful to all and coming from the collective intelligence of its partners.
In a context of continuous environmental improvement, it is quite difficult to carry out “clean”, solid and rational LCAs. The CNE could probably create an analysis grid for an eco-design packaging in addition to LCAs, according to identified scenarios and businesses, in order to help the marketer make the right decision.