The French group has already shown itself to be a force for innovation in the sector. It was a leader in the probiotic dairy market a decade ago with Bio (now Activia). The probiotic yogurt market has experienced immense growth, as other big players like Nestle and Unilever have entered the fray. The spoonable probiotic yoghurt market alone was estimated by Euromonitor International to be worth US$1.6bn (€1.25bn) at retail in 2005.
Danone's reported next move into beauty foods propels it into another hot new area - beauty foods purported to improve appearance by working from the inside-out. To date, most of the products have come from niche operators - such as a bronzing water introduced in France last year by Microfluid Biotechnolog. But Danone looks to be tipping the trend over into the mainstream.
A spokesperson for Danone confirmed that the group is planning to launch cosmetic yoghurt products in 2007, but declined to give any further information about the product itself or the rollout strategy.
But according to the UK's Financial Times, the yoghurt, to be named Essensis, will have detoxifying properties that will reflect on skin health.
The area of overlap between dietary supplement and cosmetics companies has been growing with a category, now estimated by Kline and Co to be worth around US$1bn on a global basis. Kline calls such products 'nutricosmetics' - but it is not alone in coining a new term to describe the concept.
Leatherhead Food International is calling ingestible ingredients with skin benefits 'skingestibles'. Leatherhead is today hosting one-day conference in London to discuss market drivers and opportunities for food companies eyeing this market, such as catering to consumers' self-esteem issues.
While there is not yet enough information on the product design or supporting science to judge the real value of Danone's new offering to consumers, already there are some signs that that the cosmetic foods market could be marred by gimmicky products containing ingredients that sound good, but do not deliver on that promise.
For instance, collagen-containing marshmallows from Japan's Eiwa Confectionery, marketed to plump out the lips and cheeks, have attracted criticism from nutrition experts who say that the ingested collagen (a component of many basic foodstuffs) is used for many functions within the body and would not be routed directly to the lips.
Dieticians are wont to question the need for beauty foods, saying that following a sensible diet will result in a healthy appearance.