Danone Invests 22.7 Million In Parets To Grow In Vegetable Alternatives

The Danone factory in Parets del Vallès (Barcelona) celebrates its 40th anniversary this year on the verge of completing a renovation process that has involved an investment of 22.7 million euros and has made it the only hybrid plant in the group, which produces both dairy and its vegetable alternatives .

The factory has been a pioneer in many Danone products since its inception, due to its proximity to the Spanish headquarters and the Barcelona R&D center. The first Danacol came out of Parets , and it was also a testing ground for Actimel , among other examples.

Currently, it produces 80,000 tons per year of 132 references of the Activia , Oikos , Vitalinea and Alpro brands , and exports 23% of the production to more than 10 European countries. It does so in six production lines with 160 workers : five for dairy products (which account for 85% of the volume) and one for vegetable alternatives (15%).

Parets debuted in vegetable alternatives to yogurt in 2021, with an investment of 12 million to install a new production line for references based on coconut and oats. At the beginning of this 2022, a line of soy-based products has been added that has meant an injection of four million more.

In addition, in 2023 a digitization project will be completed for 6.7 million euros, which has involved the complete automation of the warehouse (with robots that autonomously transfer materials from the shelves to the production line) and improvements in flows and processes for improve cost and production efficiency.

Thanks to the digitization projects, Parets has reduced the emissions generated by each ton of product by 16% in two years , which is equivalent to more than 2,000 tons of CO2, and has cut water consumption by 27% per ton of product .

The Catalan factory is characterized by its flexibility, which will make it possible to increase the weight of the production of vegetable alternatives if demand requires it. And it is that, for example, coconut-based references are growing at a rate of 200%, says Víctor Sales, Director of Operations at Danone Iberia.

In general, Danone has its own “unicorn” in Alpro (its vegetable alternatives brand, which it bought in 2016), in the words of Laia Mas, director of Corporate Affairs and Sustainability at Danone Iberia. In 2017, Alpro invoiced 1,500 million euros, which in 2020 was already 2,200.

According to data from Danone, Spain is the third European market for vegetable drinks and is in the top 5 for alternatives to yogurt. Today, 58% of Spaniards consume vegetable alternatives to dairy, and of these, 98% combine them with traditional dairy products, in line with the rise of flexitarianism .

The modernization and improvements in efficiency of Parets are allowing the facilities to alleviate part of the current increase in costs, and their continuity is guaranteed in the medium term, while Danone has decided this year to close the plant in Asturias , whose production will be assumed by France. Along with Parets, the Spanish dairy plants of Tres Cantos (Madrid) and Aldaya (Valencia) continue.

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