SILVIA DÁVILA

Mexico 2020 | INDUSTRY | INTERVIEW

Danone Mexico is continuously churning out new innovative products, introducing plant-based offerings, and nurturing the country's small milk producers through its social project

Silvia Dávila
BIOGRAPHY

Silvia Dávila began her career at McDonald's Mexico and later joined the Procter & Gamble team, as part of its marketing staff. Afterwards, she was general manager for the chocolates and pet divisions for Mars Mexico. She then became vice president and global food chief marketing officer for Mars in Belgium. In 2017, she was appointed regional president Latin America at Danone Dairy. She serves as advisor of the Technological University of Mexico (UNITEC) and is a member and fellow of the International Women Forum (IWF). She graduated with honors in her marketing BA from UNITEC and completed a master's in business economics at the Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education (ITESM).

What strategies is Danone Mexico using to maintain popularity and hold consumers' interest in Mexico?
Customers' attention spans are getting shorter. We used to make 30-second commercials, and now we only have six seconds. We are active in the digital environment. Obviously, we are investing in getting quality data, so we can become closer to our customers. Today, we do not talk about consumers; we talk about demographic “tribes." We speak differently about the same brand to different tribes, such as vegans versus high-performance athletes. At Danone, we are careful that our brands have a clear umbrella, message, and social agenda. Then, we break our audience down with key messages that make our products relevant to them. In terms of maintaining growth, our strategy is more innovation. One of the things we have learned is that innovation cycles are much shorter than previously. Once you have something out there, you better be ready to change yourself, rather than be changed by the market.

Why is Mexico such an attractive market for plant-based products?
Mexico is the only country in Latin America where there is a plant-based business. In Brazil, we are on a growth trajectory, but it is still small. In Argentina and Uruguay, where we have just introduced it, the category is pretty much non-existent. Mexico tends to get new things because of its proximity to the US. American-made, plant-based products are well-established. This category started in Mexico around 10 years ago. Danone acquired Silk in 2017. We measure penetration in terms of how many households are using a particular category of product. In Mexico, penetration for plant-based products is still small, with only 10% of Mexican households buying a plant-based product once a year.

What strategies are you using to increase household consumption of plant-based products?
First, we are diversifying the number of flavor options we offer. We started with almond and soy, and we now have coconut, oat, and mixed nuts. Plant-based products are an acquired taste, as people are not used to them. We are also starting to offer a wider range of products. We started with milk, but now we have both “spoonable" and drinkable yogurt. We are introducing ice cream and ready-to-drink coffee options. By amplifying the number of options we offer, buying this category of products becomes more natural.

What other new products is Danone Mexico launching in 2019-2020?
In 2019, we launched a high protein brand called YoPro, both a dairy and plant-based version, designed for people who exercise on a regular basis. In Mexico, there is a high rate of lactose intolerance and many people who do not want dairy in their diet. It is challenging for vegans to get enough protein, so we have developed a formula using a combination of soy and chickpeas. At the same time, we are overhauling a number of our existing brands. We are also launching a line of yogurts inspired by fruits from Mexico's many regions. These yogurts will be made by Mexican milk, our own natural cultures, and a touch of agave, to make a unique Mexican product. We are also continually improving Activia, with our new Activia Shots containing 2 billion probiotics in only 100ml. In kids' products, we launched jelly pouches under the Dany brand and even have a spicy version that caters to the Mexican market.

What actions are being implemented under Danone's One Planet One Health campaign?
A great local example is the Margarita Project, which has developed practices to make small milk producers profitable. Today, 18% of the milk we buy comes from those Margarita farmers. We just signed a contract for Bimbo to join us in the development of this project. We have also started a scheme to help small farmers who grow the strawberries we use in our products here. These are two examples of where we actively lead the One Planet agenda.