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|Country of origin||France|
Activia is a brand of yogurt owned by Danone ("The Dannon Company" in the United States) and introduced in France in 1987. As of 2013, Activia is present in more than 70 countries and on all 5 continents. Activia is classified as a functional food, designed to improve digestive health.
Activia is marketed as a beneficial health product, with a focus on improved intestinal motility. Activia products contain Bifidobacterium animalis DN 173,010, a proprietary strain of Bifidobacterium, a probiotic which is marketed by Dannon under the trade names Bifidus Regularis, Bifidus Actiregularis, Bifidus Digestivum and Bifidobacterium Lactis. According to the WHO, probiotics are live microorganisms that, when consumed in sufficient quantity, provide a health benefit beyond that of basic nutrition. Probiotics play a positive role in reducing infections, regulating cholesterol levels and high blood pressure, stimulating digestive health, preventing obesity...
Some marketing campaigns for Activia have resulted in litigation in Canada, Europe and the United States. The firm has settled out of court without admission of liability for wrongdoing.
The beginning of the research on bifidus 
In 1899, Henry Tissier, a French pediatrician at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, isolated a bacterium characterised by a Y-shaped morphology ("bifid") in the intestinal flora of breast-fed infants and named it "bifidus". The scientist observed that these bifidobacteria were dominant in the gut flora of healthy babies. He thus noticed that when the bacteria were present in an infant's intestinal flora, the baby suffered less from gastrointestinal disorders. He therefore recommended treating infants suffering from diarrhea with the bacteria .
In 1907, Nobel prize winner, Elie Metchnikoff, deputy director at the Pasteur Institute, propounded the theory that lactic acid bacteria are beneficial to human health. He observed that the longevity of Bulgarian peasants was the result of their consumption of fermented milk products. Elie Metchnikoff also suggested that “oral administration of cultures of fermentative bacteria would implant the beneficial bacteria in the intestinal tract”.
Isaac Carasso, the founder of Danone, was aware of scientific advances that had been made by Metchnikoff with fermented milk. In 1919, Isaac Carasso began manufacturing yogurts using microorganisms provided by the Pasteur Institute and marketing them in pharmacies for children suffering from gastroenteritis. Over the years, yogurts became available in stores and supermarkets.
The birth of Activia 
In the 1980s, Danone researchers took interest in bifidobacteria. They developed a specific strain that can survive in the acidic medium of yogurt. In addition to traditional yogurt bacteria, they decided to add a probiotic strain:Bifidus Actiregularis. Activia products thus contain Bifidobacterium animalis DN 173,010, a proprietary strain of Bifidobacterium, a probiotic which is marketed by Dannon under the trade names Bifidus Regularis, Bifidus Actiregularis, Bifidus Digestivum and Bifidobacterium Lactis. Danone launched Activia in France in 1987 under the "Bio" brand name.
Worldwide launches 
- 1987: launch of Activia in France
- 1988: launch in Belgium, in Spain and in the United Kingdom
- 1989: launch in Italy
- 2002: launch in Russia, in Japan
- 2003: launch in America
- 2004: launch in Canada
- 2005: launch in Africa, in China and in the United States.
- 2011: launch in Australia. Activia is the first probiotic brand of yogurts sold in the United States.
From Bio to Activia 
In 2006, a European Union law forced the group to drop the brand name "Bio" which was considered misleading for consumers since Bio yogurts contained no organic milk. Danone changed "Bio"-branded products to the "Activia" brand. In 2006, Bio became Activia in France and Spain.
In 2012, Activia celebrated 25 years in business.
Products in 2013 
Since the original brand creation in 1987, a wide range of products have been launched. Activia products are sold with different textures (set or firm, stirred, drinkable...) in more than 70 countries worldwide and in flavors adapted to local consumer preferences. The product line varies by country. Most Activia yogurt contain real fruit.
United States 
- Activia: cherry, prune, strawberry banana, peach, mixed berry, blueberry, strawberry, vanilla
- Activia Light: strawberry banana, key lime, raspberry, blueberry, peach, strawberry, vanilla
- Activia Harvest Picks: cherry, mixed berry, peach, strawberry
- Activia Breakfast Blend: apple cinnamon, maple and brown sugar, banana bread, vanilla
- Activia Fiber: peach cereal, strawberry cereal, vanilla cereal
- Activia Drinks: mango, peach, prune, strawberry, strawberry banana
- Activia 24 oz. Tubs: vanilla light, plain, vanilla
- Activia: blueberry, vanilla, raspberry, strawberry, strawberry rhubarb, prune, peach, cherry, lemon, plain unsweetened, plain sweetened, apple and blackberry
- Activia source of fiber: strawberry kiwi cereal, red fruits cereal, peach cereal, vanilla cereal, blueberry cereal
- Activia fat free: strawberry, vanilla, raspberry, peach
- Drinkable Activia: strawberry, vanilla, mixed berry
In Finland the Activia brand includes fruit and natural yogurt as well as yogurt drinks. Due to the high level of lactose intolerance in the Nordic region, lactose free forms of the yogurt are also sold.
In Spain there are over 56 different flavors. Following a European law which forbids non-organic food to be labeled "Bio", Danone changed Spanish "Bio"-branded products to the "Activia" brand in order to comply with the law.
In Russia, the products include yogurt, yogurt drinks and kefir, a drink traditionally popular in Commonwealth of Independent States countries. The fiber yogurt series includes three muesli flavors in addition to the oat cereal flavor found in the US and UK. Drinkable yogurt variations include pineapple and dried apricot, among others.
United Kingdom and Ireland 
In Britain and Republic of Ireland, the Activia range includes :
- Fruit: mango, cranberry, fig, kiwi, apricot, prune, rhubarb, strawberry, cereals fiber, pear
- 0% Fat Free: peach, cherry, forest fruit, mandarin, mango, blueberry, pineapple, raspberry, strawberry, vanilla
- Single pot fat free: peach, cherry, raspberry, strawberry, banana toffee and biscuity bits, juicy pineapple
- Fruit Layer: prune, raspberry
- Natural : 500 Gram pot
- Intensely Creamy Classics : raspberry, cherry, peaches, strawberry, lemon, vanilla
- Intensely Creamy Temptations: caramel, coconut
- Greek style: berries, lemon, honey
- Breakfast pouring yogurt: natural, vanilla, strawberry.
- Breakfast pots (with crunchy clusters): vanilla, honey, peach
In the Republic of Korea, semi-solid yogurts are available in plain, strawberry, peach, prune, fat-free aloe, and sugar-free plain, while yogurts are available in plain, apple, grape, prune, fat-free blueberry and fat-free plain.
- 4-Pack: strawberry, natural, vanilla, fig, berries, mango
- Dessert: strawberry shortcake, apple strudel, passionfruit cheesecake
- Favourites: vanilla berries mango, berries strawberry blueberry
- Large Tub: strawberry, vanilla
- Pouring: strawberry, mango, natural, vanilla
- Singles: berries, strawberry, mango
In 2006, Activia sales reached $130 million, in the US alone. The following year, sales increased by 50% in the US market.
In 2009, sales of Activia reach €2.6 billion globally, with key markets in Europe and the United States. Activia's popularity in the United States is due to the growing public demand for natural products as well as the growing market of probiotics that came into vogue in the late 1990s.
In 2011, Activia is the largest global fresh dairy brand in the world (Nielsen data). The probiotic yogurt market is valued at €4 billion.
The probiotics market 
Activia products are considered as functional foods. These foods are enriched with probiotics and provide health benefits when consumed in adequate amounts. The positive effects depend on the specific strain, its dose.
In 2003, the probiotics (also called functional foods) market was worth $9.9 billion. These products are also heavily marketed and more expensive than non-probiotic dairy products.
In 2009, in United Kingdom, 60% of households regularly bought probiotic drinks. The market there is currently worth £164m per year.
Consumers are willing to pay for products that provide health benefits. Activia products, that are considered as functional foods, are priced about two dollars higher than other yogurts.
In 2011, in Germany, Danone moved from polystyrene to PLA Ingeo, a new material for its Activia yogurt cup. This packaging is made of plastic from plants, not oil. To develop this innovative material, the French manufacturer worked closely with NatureWorks. Danone and NatureWorks also want to achieve the International Sustainability and Carbon Certification (ISCC) designation for this new Activia packaging. This packaging change has been implemented for about 80% of the volume of all Activia products in the German market.
Since Activia's launch, the Danone Group focused Activia communication on probiotics and health benefits. The WHO defines probiotics as "live microorganisms which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host". Consumers bought Activia products mostly for its medicinal qualities.
In 2010, Dannon partenered with actress Jamie Lee Curtis to promote Activia products. On the screen, the audience could read "scientifically proven" to reduce irregularity. According to the brand, Activia "helps regulate your digestive system" when eaten on a daily basis. Danone used health claims as a marketing tool.
But Danone has been accused of deceptive advertising.
Further the US litigation and the EU health claims law, and just before the decision of the EFSA on Activia, Danone thus decided to change Activia communication and marketing. Advertising does not talk about health benefits anymore but about pleasure and taste. On Danone's website, one can read : "Drinking and eating are, first and foremost, a source of pleasure, and while the initial purchase of a product may be motivated by a health benefit, in the majority of cases, a repeat purchase is motivated by the taste".
Debates surrounding health claims on probiotic foods 
The US FDA pressed charges for false advertising.
According to Danone, Activia is based on 17 scientific studies. But according to CBS News, two of these studies were not statistically significant compared to the placebo groups and six others didn't show a statistically significant improvement in transit time.
The EU health claims law 
In 2006, a European regulation demanded that health food companies come up with the scientific evidence to back their labeling and advertising. Member states were asked to submit health claims from manufacturers who had to wait for the approval of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). EFSA currently verifies all functional foods claims. Most of the time, EFSA rejects companies' claims due to the lack of scientific evidence.
Controversies in the United States 
Litigation in 2010 
In its marketing for Activia, Danone claimed that Bifidobacterium animalis relieves irregularity.
In the 2010 Activia TV commercials, a voiceover explains : "Activia eaten every day is clinically proven to help regulate your digestive system in two weeks”. Dannon said it had scientific evidence to back up its assertions.
But according to the Federal Trade Commission, commercials and claims on Activia packages are deceptive and Dannon exaggerates the yogurt's health benefits. In its 2010 charges against Dannon, the FTC stated that "Eating one serving of Activia daily is not clinically proven to relieve temporary irregularity and help with slow intestinal transit time". In fact, consumers must eat three servings of Activia each day to obtain health benefits.
In December 2010, The Dannon Company settled allegations of false advertising. In the settlement, Dannon dropped its claims of the health benefits of its Activia yogurt. The company thus agreed to stop advertising that Activia yogurt improves motility, unless the ad conveys that three servings must be eaten per day to obtain these benefits. Dannon therefore removed the words "clinically" and "scientifically proven" from Activia products.
Dannon agreed to pay US$21 million to 39 states that had coordinated investigations with the FTC. In response to a similar lawsuit in Canada, Danone agreed to settle the suit by paying compensation and modifying its advertising.
Class action in 2008–2009 
A class action lawsuit filed in Los Angeles federal court on 25 January 2008, argued that Dannon's own studies failed to support its advertised claims. The class action suit accused Danone of mounting a massive false advertising campaign to convince consumers to buy Activia products because of their health benefits.
In a statement in response to the lawsuit, Dannon stated that it "strongly disagrees with the allegations in the lawsuit" and that it makes all scientific studies about its products available to the public, following the established method of peer-review and publication. According to the group:"All of Dannon's claims for Activia and DanActive are completely supported by peer-reviewed science and are in accordance with all laws and regulations".
Dannon spokespeople deny the claims of the lawsuit and admitted no wrongdoing as part of the settlement, which was agreed to in order to avoid the distraction and expense of litigation. As of September 2012[update], this fund has only paid out about US$1 million in reimbursements to consumers.
Litigation in Canada in 2009 
In October 2009, Danone was sued in Quebec Superior Court over the nature of the health claims in its advertising. The company had asserted that Activia yogurt could improve digestion or prevent the common cold. In September 2012, the parties elected to settle the case; Danone agreed to modify its advertising claims, but was not forced to admit wrongdoing. Consumers who purchased Activia yogurt between 1 April 2009 and 6 Nov 2012 had 90 days to request compensation between C$15 to C$50, based on the quantity purchased.
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- "Activia, Deactiviated: FTC Forces Dannon to Modify Claims". Brand channel. December 2010.
- "Activia is a probiotic yogurt that helps with occasional irregularity". www.activia.us.com.
- "Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) & Probiotics". Puristat.
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- "Potential of probiotics as biotherapeutic agents targeting the innate immune system". African Journal of Biotechnology. February 2005.
- "Probiotics History". News Medical. 24 January 2013.
- "Probiotics and prebiotics". World Gastroenterology Organisation. May 2008.
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- "Pioneers of Probiotics". European Probiotic Association. February 2012.
- "The history of Danone". Danone.com. May 2009.
- "Daniel Carasso, a Pioneer of Yogurt, Dies at 103". New York Times. 20 May 2009.
- "What is Bifidus Regularis". What is Bifidus Regularis?.
- "Substitution by an Unknown Target Brand ?". Centre de recherche DMSP. April 2008.
- "Danone to launch probiotic Activia in US". Daily reporter. October 2005.
- "Danone debuts probiotic yoghurt Activia in 69th country: Australia". Food navigator Asia. May 2011.
- "Healthy food sales in fast-growth markets". Fidelity worldwide investment. 2010.
- Activia US
- Activia Canada
- Danone Brazil
- Danone France
- Activia UK
- "Activia joins Rachel's in pouring yogurt". The Grocer. October 2010.
- Activia Korea
- Activia Australia
- "Marketing Probiotics: From Past to Present, the Market Has Been Friendly to Friendly Bacteria". Innova Market Insights. April 2012.
- "Activia & Lactose Intolerance". Live Strong. May 2011.
- "Gut instinct". Slate. July2008.
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- "Finding Success in Functional Foods". Nutraceuticals world. November 2010.
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- "Danone:a global leader in healthy food". IFI Magazine.
- "Functional dairy foods: making healthy eating easier?". National Dairy Council. August 2008.
- "Should we swallow this?". The Guardian. February 2006.
- "Are probiotics really that good for your health?". The Guardian. July 2009.
- "Consumers don't buy ingredients, they buy product benefits". Natural products insider. August 2011.
- "Danone Launches Sustainable Ingeo Activia Yogurt Cup in the German market". Business Wire. May 2011.
- "Danone first to switch to PLA for yogurt cup in Germany". Packaging World. May 2011.
- "Activia". Wikidot. March 2010.
- "New Activia® Selects Change the Culture of Yogurt". Business Wire. August 2011.
- "Is Yogurt Good for You?". Slate. July 2011.
- "Danone faces key EU decision on health claims". Reuters. March 2010.
- "What health benefits, exactly, is Activia yogurt supposed to offer?". Slate. July 2008.
- "Danone yogurts revived with pleasure". wtwoodsoncrew.org. September 2010.
- "Diversity, balance and nutrition are inextricably linked with taste and pleasure". Danone.
- "Probiotics: Looking Underneath the Yogurt Label". The International Herald Tribune. September 2009.
- "New research on probiotics shows promise". USA Today. May 2012.
- "Probiotic claims". Choice. July 2011.
- "Why Dannon let Jamie Lee Curtis tell lies about Activia". CBS News. December 2010.
- "Dannon, Coca-Cola, you guys have some nerve". CBS News. February 2011.
- "Probiotic foods could 'disappear' due to constant scientific rejection of health and digestion claims". Daily News. February 2012.
- "EU health food claims law begins to bite". BBC. July 2010.
- "Dannon Settles With F.T.C. Over Some Health Claims". The New York Times. Decemmber 2010.
- "Foods With Benefits, or So They Say". New York Times. May 2011.
- "Why Dannon let Jamie Lee Curtis tell lies about Activia". CBS News. Decemmber 2010.
- "Dannon Settles With F.T.C. Over Some Health Claims". The New York Times. December 2010.
- "Dannon Agrees to Drop Exaggerated Health Claims for Activia Yogurt and DanActive Dairy Drink". Federal Trade Commission. December 2010.
- "Dannon to Pay $45M to Settle Yogurt Lawsuit". ABC News. February 2010.
- "Dannon Agrees to Drop Exaggerated Health Claims for Activia Yogurt and DanActive Dairy Drink". Federal Trade Commission. 15 December 2010.
- Sandler, Lauren (3 July 2008). "Gut Instinct: What health benefits, exactly, is Activia yogurt supposed to offer?". Slate.
- Taylor, Lesley Ciarula (24 September 2012), "Millions of Canadians benefit from class-action settlement against yogurt maker", Toronto Star (Toronto, ON, Canada: Torstar), ISSN 0319-0781, OCLC 137342540, archived from the original on 25 September 2012, retrieved 25 September 2012, "In both cases, the lawsuits challenged Danone's claims that Activia yogurt or DanActive probiotic drinks could aid digestion or prevent colds."
- "Dannon to Pay $45M to Settle Yogurt Lawsuit". ABC News. February 2010.
- "Dannon sued over "probiotic" bacteria claims". Reuters. January 2008.
- "Danone to settle lawsuit over Activia yogurt, DanActive health claims". CTV News. September 2012.
- "Dannon Yogurt Faces Lawsuit Over False Advertising". ABC News. January 2008.
- "Dannon agreed to settle a false ad lawsuit for $35 m". PopSop. April 2009.
- "Dannon settles false advertising lawsuit over Activia, DanActive yogurt", Los Angeles Times, 19 September 2009
- whatisbifidusregularis.org/ – An analysis of the terms Bifidus Actiregularis, Bifidus Regularis, Bifidus Digestivum, L. Casei Immunitass and their variants, as well as the marketing strategy, and information about the potential health benefits of live yogurts.
- Danone – The manufacturer of Activia
- Dannon – Danone US subsidiary