An Interview with Pascal de Petrini, Chairman of Danone Asia: On Innovation, Food, Sustainability & Health

ISSUE #67 – In our interview with a Patron Member, Pascal de Petrini (pictured below), Chairman at Danone Asia, shares with us about his career, the company’s strategy and its latest activities in Asia Pacific.

 

 

Do share with us about your career at Danone.

It is as an industrial engineer that I joined Danone Dairy in 1984, but it’s within the Biscuit Division that I started my real leadership adventure: as a Supply Chain Director of LU France in 1995 and as a General Manager of the Biscuit Branch in China 3 years later. This was the starting point of my 20-year long journey in Asia, from General Manager ERP THEMIS in 2002 to General Manager of Aqua Indonesia 2 years later, followed by Regional Vice-President Waters Asia-Pacific. In 2008, I was appointed Regional Vice-President Early Life Nutrition Asia Pacific in addition to my Waters responsibilities.

I later joined Fraser & Neave in 2011 as CEO Food & Beverage, prior to become, within Fonterra, Managing Director Asia Pacific Middle East & Africa in 2013.

I joined Danone back in 2015 on different executive roles, leading the Strategic Resources Cycle globally, from our Singapore Headquarters.

I currently hold the first Chairman Asia position at Danone, based in Singapore.

 

How is the health, food and nutrition sector changing? How are consumer expectations in Singapore and the region evolving?

A food revolution is underway and people all over the world are rethinking how they eat, drink and socialise over food experiences. People care about where their food comes from, how it was grown, how it arrived on their plates and how it impacts their health and the health of the planet. It’s even truer in Asia, where brands have lost a great deal of their consumers’ trust, following a few food safety scandals in the recent years. And whenever children’s health is involved, parents get even more cautious, demanding and anxious.

On top of that, the region is facing some critical public health challenges such as malnutrition and obesity, and Singapore is no exception. It’s interesting to see how this small island has been leading the way ahead of its imposing neighbours, not only in its consumer trends, but also in the standards the government sets to improve public health. The “Healthier Choice” icon we now see where we shop and where we eat is only one of the many examples.

It’s interesting to see how this small island has been leading the way ahead.

Data will also play a crucial role in solving the public health equation. As a smart nation, Singapore has already understood this, and has heavily invested in the digitalisation of healthcare. Digitalisation to collect valuable and transparent data about local health trends, but also to provide for tailored solutions, as governments and companies alike realise more and more that there is no such thing as one size fits all.

 

Could you tell us about Danone’s strategy in Asia, specifically in Singapore?

At Danone, we believe that each time we eat and drink, we can vote for the world we want. We work every day to be a catalyst of this food revolution and our point of view is clear: food is not just a commodity. Our mission is to bring health through food to as many people as possible. That’s why Danone has a healthier portfolio by choice, and constantly works on improving its economic, social and environmental impact. Last year we unveiled our new logo and tagline, one that truly reflects what we put at the heart of everything we do: OnePlanet.OneHealth.

In Asia like anywhere else, we want to be perceived as the ones making a difference, driving the change. The World was in shock when it found out what Indonesian deep waters really look like. The French Chamber knows that better than anyone: last May during our annual Beach Clean Up we collected together more than 2 tons of trash on Tana Merah Beach alone! That’s after we collected 2.6 tons 8 months earlier in September last year, on the same beach… And we all agree that plastic in all its forms made up for the biggest part of this trash.

 

 

People are over the awakening stage already, and I am amazed to see that as a consequence, there has been spontaneous movements all over the world to reduce plastic usage including bags and straws, followed by concrete government actions in a few countries! Another proof that the revolution is coming from the consumers, a revolution that we want to be part of. As the leading water producer in Indonesia with our Aqua brand, we couldn’t stay oblivious to this terrible situation, so we decided to act responsibly. Just a few months ago we launched the Aqua Plastic Pledge, a very ambitious program aimed at tackling the Plastic waste crisis in Indonesia at the 2025 horizon, through 3 commitments: recovering more plastic than we use from the Indonesian environment (in equivalent volume), accelerating awareness and recycling education, and making all our plastic packaging 100% recyclable, while increasing the proportion of recycled plastic in our bottles to 50%.

I am amazed to see there has been spontaneous movements all over the world to reduce plastic usage including bags and straws, followed by concrete government actions in a few countries!

We have “Pledges” in other parts of Asia too, such as in Japan, one of the most health-conscious countries in the world. To address the consumers’ expectations and their nutritional needs, our dairy division in Japan has committed to a careful selection of their ingredients, to an improved transparency on the sourcing of ingredients and to the development of products that are tailored to meet the local health needs.

 

 

As this issue focuses on innovation, could you share with us the latest initiatives on research and innovation undertaken by Danone in Singapore?

You may know that we recently rebranded our Singapore-based Research & Innovation Center, now called Nutricia Research Precision Nutrition D-LAB. The digital lab will be a hub of innovation, using the first-class digital technology and combining data science and machine learning to help generate insights on early life nutrition. These insights enable researchers to discover new biological mechanisms, predict the risks of certain diseases and eventually drive tailored nutritional solutions for the long-term health of individuals.

 

From left to right: Jean Marc Magnaudet (President Asia Pacific and Middle East, Danone Specialised Nutrition), Dalvir Singh (Head of Consumer Businesses, Singapore Economic Development Board), Rocio Martin (Director, Danone Nutricia Research Singapore), Florence Jeantet (VP, Growth through Innovation, Danone Nutricia Early Life Nutrition), Katrien Van Laere (VP Research & Innovation, Danone Nutricia Research) (more)

 

In addition, we are also able to provide for strong product innovations using the latest research: we have recently launched SYNEO for example, the new milk formula addition to the Aptamil family. Addressing the rising concern of allergy in children, it offers a unique patented blend of pre- and probiotics that has shown to have allergy benefits.

Besides research and products, we also innovate in the way we reach out to our customers, constantly expanding our footprint to cater to all types of purchasing behavior. Last year we announced a strategic regional partnership for South-East Asia with Lazada, with the objective to create a superior online shopping experience to the ever-growing number of online consumers across the region. We’re also the very first FMCG company to partner with FairPrice to develop a mobile application. This Aptamil loyalty app called AptaAdvantage will allow us once again to enhance the consumer experience through improved convenience and instant redeem of consumer product trials and discounts.

 

From left to right: Eric van der Hoeven, Vice President Growth Through Engagement, Danone Early Life Nutrition, and Max Bittner, CEO of Lazada Group signed the strategic partnership on 24 November 2017. (more)

 

Our global innovations were displayed during the recent Consumer Goods Forum that took place in Singapore last June, and where I represented Danone alongside Emmanuel Faber, our Global CEO and Chairman. We had the chance to showcase our unique savoir-faire and positioning, and it was extremely well received and acclaimed by the Retail industry.

 

Any upcoming projects at the newly inaugurated Precision Nutrition D-Lab at Biopolis that you can share with us about?

Working at the crossroads of nutrition science and digital technologies, the Precision Nutrition D-Lab is working on a variety of projects. Some of these exciting projects include developing digital-enabled data collection and digital tools that can increase accuracy and efficacy in early life nutrition research. For example: a device that records and analyses baby’s crying, apps that scores baby stool consistency or score baby’s skin symptom. Our researchers are also conducting real-life following studies to demonstrate the impact of innovations on individuals, families’ life and healthcare system. Another strategic project involves big data analysis to generate insights, uncover biological mechanisms and predict the risks of certain health issues. These initiatives will allow us to develop nutritional products and services that address the specific needs of our target population.

 

Read also: Our interview with Rocio Martin, R&D Director, on research and innovation at Danone Nutricia Research Singapore

 

What is your personal motto?

Helen Keller once said: “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much”. It’s such a simple yet powerful statement. I truly believe that great leaders never do it alone, it’s a team work. It takes many to enrich a project and to bring it to life, and it’s wise to acknowledge it and to build on it. Absolutely nothing stops you from being very ambitious once you understand that. Set yourself objectives, even if they seem un-achievable to you, and then get help from others to reach them. You may feel that you don’t have the full expertise but that’s fine, someone else may have, and you can build on each other’s strengths and knowledge to succeed. I use this on a personal level too. I realised I limit myself so much when I do it on my own, so I reach out to family, friends and immediately the possibilities become endless.

Set yourself objectives, even if they seem un-achievable to you, and then get help from others to reach them.

 

Danone is highly active at the French Chamber, from participating in the Smart Health platform to supporting initiatives such as the French Chamber CSR Day. As a strong supporter of the French Chamber, how would you describe its role for French companies in Singapore?

It all goes back to this Helen Keller’s statement, there is only so much you can do when you are alone. This is where the French Chamber’s value lies: giving you access to endless possibilities…

Together our voice weighs more, so we can influence more: influence authorities, regulations, the Singaporean business community etc. The Chamber also allows us to connect among ourselves and learn from each other: we have so much to learn from start-ups and SMEs who tend to be more agile, flexible and of course innovative. These are qualities that we sometimes lack in larger organisations. And we have so much to offer them too! Singapore is such a vibrant business place and there are so many opportunities for business partnerships and alliances out there. We need the French Chamber more than ever to help access these opportunities and connect with the Singapore ecosystem. We try to give a lot but we get so much more in return, so you can count on us to keep supporting you because we need you!

 

Discover also: The Smart Health platform of the French Chamber

 

 

 

Interview with Pascal de Petrini, Chairman, Danone

Published in FOCUS Magazine — Issue #3 2018 “The Innovation Issue

 

 

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