Danone China partners with Qingdao University to drive gut health, early life nutrition, healthy ageing R&D

By Tingmin Koe

- Last updated on GMT

Gregg Ward, Danone China, North Asia and Oceania Zone Science, Nutrition & Digital Health VP (left) and Professor Li Duo, Chief Professor of nutrition in the Institute of Nutrition & Health, Qingdao University at the signing ceremony. © Danone China
Gregg Ward, Danone China, North Asia and Oceania Zone Science, Nutrition & Digital Health VP (left) and Professor Li Duo, Chief Professor of nutrition in the Institute of Nutrition & Health, Qingdao University at the signing ceremony. © Danone China

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Danone China and Qingdao University has set up a new innovation center to drive research and development across gut health, early life nutrition, and healthy ageing.

Known as the Qingdao University – Danone Nutrition and Health Innovation Centre, the center was officially inaugurated in March.

The two parties will conduct research around the entire lifespan, especially on gastrointestinal health and the gut microbiome. At the same time, they would take into consideration the unique needs of Chinese consumers in tailoring nutrition products for them.

The company highlighted that gut function, digestive health, as well as the gut microbiome have been the key strengths and ongoing research areas for Danone both globally and in China.

As such, Qingdao University fits the criteria of a research partner given its expertise in these areas, the firm explained.

“Qingdao University has achieved fruitful research results in the field of nutrition and health in recently years, especially in evidence-based nutrition, gastrointestinal health and other specialised nutrition research area, which are highly consistent with Danone’s development direction of early life nutrition and healthy ageing.

“At Danone, we have been pioneering research in the ‘biotics’; probiotics, prebiotics, and synbiotics have always been the key areas where we have conducted in-depth research,”​ Gregg Ward, Danone China, North Asia and Oceania Zone Science, Nutrition & Digital Health VP, told NutraIngredients-Asia.

He added that the Centre would tap on resources from the university’s School of Public Health, Institute of Nutrition and Health, its analysis and test capabilities, in combination with Danone Open Science Centre’s research and innovation capabilities.

“We will also leverage Danone’s manufacturing capabilities, especially our specialised nutrition factory in Qingdao, to timely transform our research findings into advanced nutrition solutions catering to Chinse consumers, contributing to Healthy China 2030,” ​Ward told NutraIngredients-Asia. 

In 2020, Danone announced a 100 million euros (RMB$790 million) investment to strengthen its specialized nutrition capabilities in China. Part of which was used to acquire Murray Goulburn Dairy (Qingdao) from Saputo Dairy Australia. The deal meant Danone has secured its first production facility for infant milk formula in China.

Partnering local institutes

Danone China has been opening research centers with local institutes, on top of its Danone Open Science Research Centre for Life Transforming Nutrition opened in Shanghai three years ago.

For example, it partnered Jiangnan University in opening a research centre in 2020.

“Our cooperation with Qingdao University and Jiangnan University are part of our R&I ecosystem led by Danone Open Science Research Centre.  

“By cooperating with different partners on strategic complimentary areas, Danone will look to network and launch more research programs to support product innovation in China for China and the world, consistent with the ‘Open’ approach of the Danone Open Science Research Centre for Life-transforming Nutrition,”​ said Ward.

Since 2020, the firm has published 37 scientific papers and reports together with local China health and research institutes, as well as 12 patented innovations.

The Dragon Study, for example, is one of the most well-known research projects that came out of a collaboration between Danone China and Shanghai Jiao Tong University Xinhua Hospital. 

The study is designed to gather clinical evidence on how baby formulas, fortified with pro- and pre-biotics and partially hydrolysed protein, are tolerated by infants in China and the impact that these formulas have on a baby’s growth.

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