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Danone posts strong biz results in nation

By WANG ZHUOQIONG | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2024-02-28 09:12

Danone's booth is seen during an expo in Wuhan, Hubei province, in June. CHINA DAILY

Sports drink Mizone and infant nutrition products continued to drive the performance of food and beverage giant Danone in financial year 2023.

The company experienced strong competitive growth in China, Japan, Australia and New Zealand, according to its financial report.

China, North Asia and Oceania delivered 7.4 percent like-for-like sales growth in the fourth quarter from 817 million euros ($887 million) to 822 million euros. For the full year, sales rose 10.1 percent to 3.5 billion euros from 3.42 billion euros compared with a year ago.

In China, specialized nutrition maintained its momentum, in both infant nutrition and medical nutrition. Mizone also performed strongly.

In 2023, the region of China, North Asia and Oceania saw Mizone bottled water and beverage sales of 692 million euros, up 14.1 percent year-on-year. Its specialized nutrition sector, including its infant nutrition brand Aptamil, achieved net sales of 2.4 billion euros, up 8.3 percent.

Zhu Danpeng, a food and drink analyst in China, said Danone was one of the earliest multinational brands to enter China. Its brand, scale and fans have started to show an evident upside effect.

Aptamil initially focused on cross-border e-commerce sales, later expanding into all channels. With its unique and differentiated product advantages, Aptamil achieved growth through new mom care groups and marketing through positive consumer reviews, said Zhu.

Danone's Group Deputy CEO Juergen Esser said that in the infant milk formula business in China, Aptamils posted another quarter of solid growth and continued to gain more market share, thanks to local team's efforts alongside tight controls over inventories and pricing, especially during the market transition from old to newly registered recipes.

Their medical portfolio in China registered double-digit growth, driven by both adult nutrition and pediatric specialties.

"In water, Mizone delivered another quarter of double-digit growth led by market share volume gains," he said.

Antoine de Saint-Affrique, CEO of Danone, said the company is satisfied with the quality and quantity of growth in China. "The business remains extraordinarily strong," said the CEO. He highlighted the launch of Essensis, the top product in its premium portfolio of infant milk formula, with promising initial feedback.

In the infant milk formula category, the company has opportunities for penetration into third- and fourth-tier cities, he added.

For adult consumers, the company will keep growing, leveraging its pharmaceutical license in China to focus more on post-hospital discharge patients with nutritional powders and expand its product offerings.

The CEO said 2023 was a year of consistent progress and strong deliveries, with a focus on reintegrating science into their operations and linking sustainability with business performance.

"We made significant progress in sharpening our portfolio. We further invested behind our brands, our innovations and our capabilities, progressively improving the quality of our growth," he said.

In terms of the company's global performance, it posted fourth-quarter sales of 6.7 billion euros, up 5.1 percent on a like-for-like basis. In 2023, consolidated sales stood at 27.6 billion euros, up 7 percent on a like-for-like basis.

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