Danone: How a European Brand Came to American Markets

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By Samuel Phineas Upham

Danone company, the makers of Dannon yogurt, is a Spanish company founded in 1919. It was created by Isaac Carasso, of Jewish descent, and it consisted of a very small factory for the production of yogurt. It was named after Carasso’s son Daniel, his nickname being “Danon.”

It was quite successful during its first ten years, relocating to France and building an additional factory there. The company was moved briefly to New York during the German occupation of France in World War II, something that likely saved Carasso’s life. This was to avoid prosecution for his German heritage. It was in the US that Daniel met Joe Metzger, and the two decided to change the brand name to “Dannon.” This made the brand sound more American, as opposed to the way Americans had previously called it “Dan One Yogurt.” The move helped cement the brand stateside, where it continues to thrive to this day.

The American side of the business was sold in 1959, after Daniel decided to return to France and Spain in order to manage some family business. He later repurchased the American business, but the company had already merged with Gervais, a leading producer of cheese in France.

Danone is actually a group of companies, yogurt being just one aspect of the business. There is a thriving glass making side called “Boussois-Souchon-Neuvesel,” founded by the family of Antoine Riboud. Although the glassmaker began within that industry, it eventually became transformed into a food company through acquisitions and mergers. In 1973, it merged with Gervais Danone, officially putting glass into yogurt.

Samuel Phineas Uphamis an investor from NYC and SF. You may contact Phin on his Samual Phineas Upham website or Linkedin page.