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Utah is playing a role in Dannon's introduction of a yogurt with beneficial "live and active cultures" for cost-conscious shoppers, with pricing that is as much as half off of other yogurt products.
Pure is being produced at the company's second-largest U.S. plant, in West Jordan. It costs less because it is made with just seven to nine simple ingredients. Instead of fruit, for instance, Pure has natural fruit flavors. A six-pack sells for $1.99.
Company officials say Pure was introduced in an effort to entice lower-income families, which typically purchase less yogurt than do higher-income households .
The West Jordan plant, open since 1997, also manufacturers Activia, Activia Light, Activia Greek, Light& Fit and Dan-o-nino. The plant is expanding so that by the end of the year it also will be processing a Greek yogurt, known for its thick and creamy texture, called Dannon Oikos.
On another front, Dannon is offering its first-ever scholarship to support studies in probiotics, additional live bacteria naturally present in the body that also are contained in its best-selling brand, Activia, and in its yogurt drink, DanActive.
"Most studies done with Activia have centered around digestive health, while studies on DanActive are more related to how well the immune system is preforming," said Miguel Freitas, Dannon's director of health affairs. "These are different cultures, different probiotics."
Researchers are exploring what effect the live and active cultures may have on the immune system, how they may help combat certain types of cancer-causing compounds in the digestive tract, and their potential to lower cholesterol.
Yogurt already is viewed by many as a health food. It is a good source of protein and calcium, which can exceed the amounts in equivalent servings of milk, according to the National Yogurt Association (NYA). An average 8-ounce serving of yogurt contains 8 to 10 grams of protein, or 16 to 20 percent of the daily recommended value and up to 35 percent of the recommended daily intake for calcium.
Even without probiotics, yogurt is low in fat and high in a number of minerals and essential vitamins, including riboflavin B2, vitamin B12, phosphorous and potassium.
In addition, live and active cultures or lactobacillus bulgaricus and streptococcus thermophilus, found in many yogurts may offer more health benefits, said Elise Cortina, executive director of the NYA.
To help consumers identify products that contain beneficial cultures, the NYA has established a special Live & Active Cultures seal. To qualify for the seal, refrigerated yogurt products must contain at the time of manufacture at least 100 million cultures per gram and frozen yogurt products must contain 10 million cultures per gram.
"Live and active cultures are what makes yogurt," Cortina said. "But there are no federal standards on the amount of cultures that need to be present for it to be called yogurt. That's why the seal is so important."
For instance, some products are heat-treated after fermentation, which extends shelf life but kills most cultures. Other products that do not contain live and active cultures include yogurt-covered pretzels, yogurt-covered candy and yogurt-containing salad dressings.
Dannon's parent company, Paris-based Danone, is one of the world's largest producers of yogurt products, packaged foods and beverages.
The New York-based Dannon Co. also has plants in Minster, Ohio, and Fort Worth, Texas, producing 100 different types of flavors, styles and sizes of cultured fresh dairy products.
In 2008, Dannon received $8.5 million in tax incentives from Utah when it expanded its West Jordan plant to 400,000 square feet. Since then, the plant added another production line, a fully automated 30,000-square-foot warehouse and replaced its water-treatment facility.
Dannon is offering a fellowship to support education in the field of probiotics, or live bacteria that are naturally present in the body. One student will be awarded the equivalent of one year's tuition, up to $25,000, as well as the opportunity to network with scientists leading research at the headquarters of Dannon's parent company, Danone, in France.
Products • Yogurt, smoothies and other cultured dairy goods, in addition to bottled water, baby foods, medical nutrition
Utah plant • West Jordan, employs 250 workers
Worldwide • Other U.S. facilities in Texas and Ohio; 160 plants overseas
Parent firm • Danone, based in Paris (USA Dannon, White Plains, N.Y.)
Sales • $25.5 billion last year
For information on job openings • Visit somethingspecialinside.com