Leading U.S. yogurt maker Dannon is moving according to plan on its pledge to source non-GMO ingredients for its products and to use milk from non-GMO fed cows. The company, which is the leading yogurt brand in the U.S., reached a significant milestone recently, achieving Non-GMO Project verification of several Dannon yogurt and “Danimals” smoothie products.
Non-GMO feed challenge
In 2016, Dannon announced its ambitious “Dannon Pledge,” which included commitments to use natural, non-GMO ingredients in its yogurt products, source non-GMO feed for its dairy cows, provide GMO transparency to consumers, and use more sustainable agriculture practices in its milk supply.
One of the biggest challenges was said to be sourcing enough non-GMO feed to meet the needs of Dannon’s dairy producers. An estimated 90 percent of feed produced in the U.S. is derived from genetically modified crops such as corn, soy, and alfalfa. There were doubts that enough non-GMO feed was available. Dannon CEO Mariano Lozano had described the feed initiative as a “massive undertaking,” involving the conversion of an estimated 80,000 acres to non-GMO feed crops.
“It seemed at the time it would be a challenge because we hadn’t done it before,” says Michael Neuwirth, Dannon’s senior director of external communication. “We had to use creativity, insights, and resources to find solutions.”
Dannon used a combination of approaches including purchasing non-GMO feed on the open market, using feed supplies of their own farmers, and finding farmers who grow non-GMO feed grains.
One of Dannon’s largest milk suppliers, Kansas-based McCarty Family Farms, successfully worked with its farm partners and had other farmers offer to sell them non-GMO feed.
“Thus far the challenges associated with sourcing non-GMO feed have been few and far between,” said Ken McCarty, co-owner and manager of McCarty Family Farms, a few months ago.
But Dannon will face another challenge next year when it moves its Oikos Greek yogurt products to non-GMO production because Greek yogurt uses three times as much milk as traditional yogurt.