DuBOIS — To meet growing consumer demand, Danone North America announced the opening of the new Can-America building – and the creation of more than 60 new jobs – to increase production of its plant-based foods during a ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday at the company’s DuBois location with local officials and members of the community.
This multi-million dollar investment to expand the company’s capacity in DuBois grows the largest production facility making plant-based yogurt alternatives in the U.S. and adds additional capabilities, creating new opportunities for both Danone North America and the local surrounding community.
“We’re proud to be a part of the DuBois community where we are now making several of our beloved plant-based products for our Silk, So Delicious Dairy Free and Vega brands,” said Chad Stone, plant director at Danone North America’s facility located in Sandy Township at 2592 Oklahoma-Salem Road.
“Our expertise in plant-based foods is made possible by the dedication of people in the facilities like DuBois where we focus on production to support this important area of growth,” Stone said. “The community is incredibly important to us, and we’re thrilled to open more than 60 new positions now that our facility has grown.”
Flexitarians, people cutting down on animal protein or people following a vegetarian diet who eat meat occasionally, account for one-third of the total population in the U.S., according to a Mattson survey, and the total plant-based food category in retail is growing at 20 percent, compared with all food, which is growing at 2 percent.
“As flexitarian eating patterns continue to evolve and grow in popularity, plant-based food options present an opportunity to bring new choices throughout the grocery store,” Mariano Lozano, CEO, Danone North America, said in a press release. Given this opportunity, Danone, the parent company of Danone North America, has set a broader global ambition to grow its plant-based business three times by 2025.
The DuBois facility sits on 24 acres, and the plant, with the new addition, covers a total of 180,000 square feet, Stone said.
Following the expansion, the facility will now produce Vega® yogurt alternatives and nutritional powders, in addition to Silk® yogurt alternatives and So Delicious® Dairy Free yogurt alternatives and dairy-free cheese shreds.
Danone is a world leading food and beverage company, Stone said.
“Our mission is to bring healthful food to as many people as possible. So we have many products from yogurt made from milk products but plant-based yogurt, which is mainly what is made in DuBois. So we make, So Delicious yogurt alternatives, your Silk yogurt alternatives, the Vega brand yogurt alternatives and now Vega nutritional powders as well,” Stone said.
In 2018, Danone saw an 18 percent increase in demand in the Vega brand powders and more than a 30 percent increase in yogurt alternatives as well, Stone said.
“So, overall, DuBois has a lot of business and has a lot of growth in their near future,” he said.
The expansion brings the total number of employees at Danone in DuBois to 168.
“But, we will be adding 30 more positions in 2019 for the yogurt side,” Stone said. “We’re actually launching a job fair in early March to interview and to find new candidates. And a lot of people ask, ‘Where do you find these jobs?’ and a lot of it’s online jobs.danone.com, so please, if you have friends, family, people who you know who you want to work here, have them look at the website.”
Paula Gregory, production supervisor at the new facility, said she enjoys working at Danone.
“I couldn’t be prouder of what we’ve created. We’ve created 60 new jobs in the area and what they stand for in the community. I’m proud to be a part of it,” Gregory said.
Others speaking at Friday’s ceremony included state Rep. Matt Gabler, Mark Adams, district director for state Sen. Joe Scarnati, and Scott Dunkelberger, executive deputy secretary of the Department of Community and Economic Development.
“I just want to say thank you to Danone,” Dunkelberger said. “Thank you for choosing Pennsylvania, thank you for investing in this community, thank you for investing in all the people that work here.”
This past week was Danone’s first saleable production of the powders from the DuBois facility. The 68 new employees began training in January, with a focus on safety and quality of the products, Stone said.
The number one place to currently purchase Danone’s brands is on Amazon, Stone said.
“Many people who enjoy our products look for plant-based options because they are interested in lessening their impact on the environment through diet,” he said. “Recognizing this is a priority for the people we serve, we are committed to continuously improving our environmental practices to ensure they are best-in-class. We have several projects underway including minimizing waste, reducing electricity consumption by converting to LED lighting across all areas of the DuBois facility and creating efficiencies for water use in our cleaning processes.”
The DuBois facility continues to make progress towards Danone’s priority environmental targets. In 2018, the facility reduced energy usage by 9 percent, measured in kilowatt per ton, and reduced cubic meter per ton of water consumption by 6 percent compared with the prior year. Additionally, of the facility’s total waste generated, only 7.5 percent went to landfill with the majority being diverted to recycling and reuse.
The area where the facility sits was once a local airport. Today, Danone North America is proud to provide continued opportunities to grow this facility, which has been important to the local community for generations.
“From my involvement in the community, DuBois is one of the best places to work and it’s one of the best places to live,” Stone said. “The people around here are genuine, they’re kind-hearted. They’re excited about something new and something growing and something sustainable. And I think it’s exactly what we need in central Pennsylvania is something that we can build and we can grow together.”