Published: 12/01/2018

Danone has decided to close down its dairy business in India, after three failed attempts to make a mark in one of the world’s fastest growing consumer packaged goods markets. With Danone’s decision to close down its dairy unit, the company’s factory at Rai, Sonipat, near Delhi will stop production.

Despite repeated efforts, dairy remained a small business accounting for around 10% of the company’s revenue in India. Globally, dairy is the largest business for Danone. In 2016, dairy accounted for €10.73 billion of Danone’s €21.9 billion global sales, according to the company’s results statement.

Despite being in the business in India for many years, Danone’s dairy portfolio in India was consisted of flavoured yogurt, lassi and misti doi and milk. The company’s products were available across 20 cities covering 200,000 retail outlets, but its flagship yogurt was available only in six cities.

This was Danone’s third attempt-first on its own-to crack India’s estimated Rs80,000 crore to Rs90,000 crore dairy market which is dominated by cooperatives like the Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation Ltd that owns the Amul brand.

The largest yogurt maker in Europe had two failed joint ventures (JVs), from which it had to exit. Danone first entered India in the 1990s in joint venture with the Wadia Group to build a biscuits portfolio for Britannia Industries Ltd which lasted 13 years and included a dispute over the intellectual property of Britannia’s Tiger biscuits brand. The dispute ended as Danone globally exited the biscuits segment.

The company had its second attempt in early 2000s in joint venture with Rahul Narang Group. The JV ended in 2015, after Danone exited from the beverage space in India where it had brands Qua and B’lue manufactured and distributed by two JVs-Danone Narang Beverages Pvt. Ltd and Narang Danone Access Pvt. Ltd. Globally Danone has four lines of operations-dairy, beverages, early life nutrition and advanced medical nutrition.

The French company re-entered the market on its own in 2010 with the dairy business and in 2015 re-organized its operations to merge the dairy arm with its nutrition business, which includes the acquired nutrition business of Wockhardt in India.

On 17 January 2017, Danone had said the company will focus on its nutrition business, and not dairy, to double its revenue in India by 2020.

While about 80% of Danone’s revenue in India comes from its early nutrition or infant foods business, globally the segment contributes only €5 billion in 2016.

Danone, which also sells Farex baby food and Protinex supplements that it acquired from Wockhardt Ltd, had earlier said that the company had invested Rs1,800 crore in India during the past six-seven years, primarily on building manufacturing facilities in Haryana and Punjab, setting up the head office in Mumbai and the acquisition of Wockhardt Group’s nutrition business in 2011.