The history of Danone
Created in 1919, in Barcelona, Spain, by Isaac Carasso, the Danone brand was named after his son Daniel: in Catalan, Danon is a nickname, meaning « Little Daniel ». Ten years later, Daniel Carasso launched the Danone brand in France by creating the Société Parisienne du Yoghourt Danone. He wasn’t yet 25.
Daniel Carasso was born in 1905 in Salonica, where his family, of Spanish descent, had lived in exile for more than four centuries. In 1916, Isaac Carasso, Daniel’s father, decided to return to Spain and settle there for good; three years later, he created Danone. Appalled by the number of children suffering from intestinal disorders at the end of the First World War and encouraged by the research of Elie Metchnikoff, Isaac Carasso started manufacturing yogurts, using ferments from the Pasteur Institute and selling his products on prescription in Barcelona pharmacies.
In 1923, Isaac Carasso sent his son Daniel to study in the E.S.C. business school in Marseille. His diploma in hand, he followed his father’s advice and went on to study bacteriology to gain a better understanding of ferments. He eventually ended up in the Pasteur Institute in Paris. In those crucial years, the foundations for the future of Danone were laid.
Daniel Carasso launched Danone in Paris in 1929. At that time, Parisians weren’t any more familiar with yogurt than the people of Barcelona had been ten years earlier. However, Danone quickly got ahead of the competition thanks to the quality of its products, their packaging and presentation as well as to the use of advertising which, as in Spain, highlighted yogurts’ beneficial effects on health. Business was good...
In 1941, Daniel Carasso was forced to leave France by the German invasion. He entrusted Danone France to Norbert Lafont and Danone Spain to Luis Portabella – they were to remain faithful friends for the rest of their lives. Having moved to the United States, he founded Dannon US one year later. In 1945, he returned to Europe where he put all his energy in rebuilding his French and Spanish businesses. In doing so, he gradually lost interest in the US market; Dannon was eventually sold to the American company Beatrice Foods In 1959, who in turn sold it back to BSN Gervais Danone in 1981.
In Europe, business was booming. Between 1950 and 1966, Danone’s growth was spectacular. In 1967, the fusion with Gervais gave the new Gervais-Danone company the leadership of France’s fresh dairy products market.
But the event which was going to make Danone into a world brand was the meeting, in 1972, of Daniel Carasso and Antoine Riboud. One year later, they merged their two companies.
“The objective was as simple as it was ambitious: to build a food company which could rival with the greatest multinationals by bringing together Danone’s products and brand and the industrial know-how and financial strength of BSN. The creation of BSN GERVAIS DANONE was the consecration of my life’s work. Antoine became President of the new company while Jacques Corbière (who up to that point had been President of Gervais) and I became Vice-Presidents. Thirty years after the fusion, I can safely say that all my wishes have been fulfilled. Not only has Danone managed to become an international brand but its formidable growth has been achieved without sacrificing the human and professional values which, since its very creation, have been at the heart of our group’s identity.” From a conversation with Daniel Carasso, recorded in 2003.
Daniel Carasso passed away on May 17th 2009, aged 103.