cows in field

Danone sells Horizon to equity firm Platinum Equity

Compiled and written by Ed Maltby, NODPA Executive Director

On January 2nd, 2024, French food group Danone announced that it had signed an agreement to sell its Horizon Organic and Wallaby companies and brands to investment firm Platinum Equity but still retain a minority share in the business. The sale of the Horizon Organic and Wallaby businesses is part of the company's portfolio review and asset rotation program the company announced in March 2022. Danone did not disclose the financial details of the deal. It’s taken Danone nearly a year to find a buyer.

"This sale, once completed, will allow us to concentrate further on our current portfolio of strong, health-focused brands and reinvest in our growth priorities," said Danone CEO Antoine de Saint-Affrique, reported by Reuters News agency.

Whether Horizon is the “largest organic dairy brand in North America, with a portfolio of milk, creamers and whiteners, yogurt, cheese, and butter” as the press have reported, cannot be substantiated from independent data. They certainly are not the leading sellers of fluid milk products which, currently, are store and private label brands. Wallaby is an Australian-inspired brand of organic yogurt.

Who or what is Platinum Equity? An internet search showed that the California-headquartered Platinum Equity has a portfolio of around 50 companies across 9 industries, from consumer and retail to technology and healthcare. The firm recently announced the pending acquisition of Kohler Energy from Kohler Co., and has also acquired businesses from firms like Ball Corporation, Caterpillar, ConAgra, Emerson Electric, Ingersoll Rand and Johnson & Johnson. “Tom Gores founded Platinum Equity in 1995 and his guidance, core philosophies, and strong principles drive the strategic development and direction of both the firm and its portfolio. We employ a highly specialized strategy called M&A&O® that integrates investment expertise with deep operational capability and resources, including a large team of in-house operations professionals with hands-on experience from the boardroom to the factory floor. We believe our commitment to the “O” sets us apart from other firms and helps us build strong, healthy companies and create meaningful long-term value.”

Platinum Equity’s co-president, Louis Samson, commented to Teodora Lyubomirova of Dairy Reporter: "Horizon Organic is an iconic name in dairy that is well recognized and beloved by consumers. The brand has earned a reputation for quality and innovation that is unmatched in the industry. We appreciate Danone's confidence in our ability to build on that legacy, and support Horizon Organic's growth as a standalone company." Perhaps Mr Samson needs to do a complete internet search or give me a call to get a more realistic view of Horizon’s reputation. Platinum Equity did not return a call or reply to an email requesting comment from NODPA.

Company MD Adam Cooper is also reported in the Dairy Reporter as saying that premium offerings, including organic products, were driving the growth in the dairy milk segment, adding: "Horizon Organic is a pioneer of that segment and is in position to continue capitalizing on and accelerating the trend." Not sure where they get their information from but the growth in organic sales is marginal even though it is one of the only growth areas in dairy. Looking at the company’s portfolio, they lack experience in food processing and Horizon existing management has been struggling for the last few years. When we learn more we will share the information publicly. Horizon producers may want to ask questions of their buyer about their future.