Danone expands partnership with AI firm Brightseed to explore health benefits in plants

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Dive Brief:

  • Danone SA announced an expansion of its one-year-old partnership with Brightseed, creator of the Forager artificial intelligence, which maps and predicts the health impact of plant-based compounds. Over the next few years, the two companies will explore the potential in common crops and lesser known plants, and create a blueprint for a health-focused and regenerative global food system — while speeding up Danone’s development of plant-based products. 
  • Over the past year, the companies have been identifying biological connections between bioactives present in Danone’s raw plant sources and health. For example, Forager was able to find 10 times more bioactives in a single plant than was previously known, and seven new health attributes, according to a press release on the announcement. 
  • News of the expanded partnership with Brightseed comes shortly after Danone announced plans during its most recent earnings call for a “plant-based 2.0” platform, including a reformulation of its milk alternatives, as it reaches to meet its goal of tripling its sales in the plant-based space by 2025 

Dive Insight:

The promise of plant-based food has been centered around sustainability and health. Danone’s expanded partnership with Brightseed enables it to further underline this connection.

In a statement, Taisa Hansen, senior vice president of research and innovation at Danone Nutricia Research, placed the potential of the partnership even higher, noting that it could help the global food system shift its priority from maximizing crop yields to improving sustainability and health. 

“Forager is providing unprecedented visibility into the transformative power plants can have on human health,” she said. “Ultimately our goal is to make this information non-exclusive so that humanity can benefit from this collective wisdom and move faster towards a healthier, regenerative food future.”

Brightseed Co-founder and COO Sofia Elizondo has described the company’s Forager as a “search engine” that combs through thousands of phytonutrients to discover those that could have the biggest health and nutrition benefits. In its press release on the partnership expansion, Danone noted that less than 1% of these bioactives are known to science, and only 12 plants — including crops such as corn, rice, wheat, soy and oats — make up 75% of the global food system.

Danone hopes to harness Forager to better understand more about how these crops maintain their health integrity, and examine other plant-based innovations. With this information, the partners could uncover a new segment of functional foods that Danone could commercialize on a global scale.

This expanded partnership with Brightseed comes at a pivotal time for Danone. Just this past week, the company announced it would revamp its plant-based platform and introduce new “dairy-like technology” that will improve the taste and texture of its Silk, So Delicious and Alpro dairy alternative lines. It also plans to grow its sales of plant-based yogurt, ice cream, cheese and creamers. Having an AI-enabled fast track will only further grease the wheels of innovation for Danone. 



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