Although it was founded decades ago, the Silk plant-based product brand has been part of Danone North America — headquartered in White Plains, N.Y., and Broomfield, Colo. — since 2017. Silk products, therefore, are now manufactured in the 13 U.S. manufacturing facilities Danone North America owns, explains Rick Camacho, chief supply officer for Danone North America.
“Among our facilities is our Pennsylvania plant [in DuBois], which is the world’s largest plant-based yogurt alternative manufacturing facility in the world,” he points out.
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Adept at allergen control
Because much of what Danone North America produces under its other brands falls into dairy territory, the company’s plants must be very careful in managing the dairy/nondairy product mix. As Camacho explains, Silk boasts an industry-leading allergen management program, with strict controls for ingredient suppliers and extending to storage, processing and cleaning. The brand actually shares its allergen-control practices with consumers on-pack and online (https://silk.com/about-us/allergy-information).
The keywords for successful allergen-control practices are “people,” “plants,” “ingredients” and “controls,” Camacho notes.
“We know that technological controls and cleanup protocols are only as strong as the individuals responsible for using them,” he says. “That’s why ongoing allergen safety training is mandatory for every employee who works on our production lines.”
On the plant front, Silk doesn’t settle for a one-size-fits-all approach to safety procedures.
“Each facility is required to have a plant-specific allergen-control program,” Camacho states.
On the ingredient side, Silk carefully researches and monitors its suppliers to verify alignment of their allergen safety procedures with the brand’s own high standards, he says. And as for controls, all of the plants, as well as those of suppliers and manufacturing partners, are independently verified to ensure they comply consistently with allergen safety standards.
“Regular finished-product testing is also performed,” Camacho adds. “Batch testing helps to ensure that our safety controls have functioned as intended and guards against the risk of accidental contamination.”
A sustainability emphasis
The plants are to be lauded for more than their allergen-control practices. Sustainability initiatives go well beyond what might be expected.
“We use 100% renewable electricity through the purchase of renewable energy certificates at Danone North America’s 13 owned manufacturing plants across the country,” Camacho points out. “Last year, our Bridgeton, N.J., plant was the first Danone North America plant to reach Zero Waste to Landfill (ZWTL) status.”
In March, Danone North America announced that its Minster, Ohio, facility became the second to achieve ZWTL status.
“Achieving Zero Waste at our Minster and Bridgeton facilities is an extension of our commitment to align business decisions with people and the planet as the world’s largest Certified B Corporation,” Mariano Lozano, CEO of Danone North America, said at the time of the announcement. “We look forward to continuing our landfill-free journey with our remaining facilities across the United States while also continuously working to reduce our overall environmental impact.”
Although the common understanding of ZWTL is the diversion of a high percentage of generated waste from the landfill through reuse, composting, recycling and/or energy recovery, Danone North America has a different, more-encompassing definition, he notes. The company defines ZWTL as:
- Less than 1% of nonhazardous waste is disposed to landfill.
- No hazardous waste is sent to landfill.
- Incineration without energy recovery is prohibited, with the exception of hazardous waste disposal as required by law.
- Less than 50% of waste is disposed as waste to energy.
“We purposely set the bar high with our definition of ZWTL, as we know the journey involves a constant evaluation about our materials choices and a strong commitment to eliminating waste, not just treating it,” Camacho says.