If we talk about yogurts, we are sure that Danone is not long in popping into your head. It has become one of the largest food companies in the world and its products know no borders. The company was born in Barcelona in 1919 thanks to the work of Isaac Carasso and although history did not make it easy at the time, these 100 years have brought great successes to the brand. Discover in H&L Comedy Tours the history of Danone and its origins in the city of Barcelona.
The context of the founder, a visionary of the time
Isaac Carasso was born in Thessaloniki in 1874, at that time, the city was part of the Ottoman Empire and functioned as a commercial center. The area experienced a great economic growth and the Carasso family was known in the area for its economic power thanks to its exports of oil and nuts.
Many might think that the young Isaac Carasso would focus on the oil sector, following his family legacy. But a revolutionary idea would bring him to prominence in the dairy industry. His first contact with yogurt, the flagship product of today's Danone brand, did not come until 1905 from Bulgarian merchants.
The merchants sold jaurta fermented sheep's milk that had a viscous appearance and a sour taste. Surely, from the first spoonful of this product, to the yogurts he would later sell, there is a big difference. However, it was a first contact with the product that would end up changing his life, and his digestive health!
That same year, Lactobacillus Bulgaricus was discovered, the lactic acid bacteria that is still used today to obtain the rennet so characteristic of these famous dairy products. All this laid the foundations of an empire that was yet to come.
Why are Danone's origins in Barcelona?
I'm sure more than one is wondering why Isaac Carasso did not start his empire in Thessaloniki, the land where he was born and where he had great economic influence. Maybe he would have done so, but a succession of wars in the area, made it impossible for his yogurt business to grow there.
In 1910, the the Italo-Turkish war, what is known as the first modern war in Europe. Shortly thereafter, in 1912 and 1913, the first modern war in Europe took place. Balkan Wars and the city passed into the hands of Greece. This left a situation of economic instability and many families opted to seek asylum in Spain.
The outbreak of the wars coincided with the lifting of the veto on the Sephardic community in Spain by Alfonso XIII. This veto had been imposed by the Catholic Monarchs and its lifting allowed the wealthiest families to take refuge in Spanish lands. Among the families that were able to opt for asylum in Spanish lands were the Carasso family.
Isaac set off for Barcelona with his wife Esterina and their three children. However, the road was far from easy. In order to reach Barcelona, they had to take refuge in Lausanne, because in 1914 the First World War broke out. The poor guys had more bad luck than the squirrel in Ice Age.
It was in Lausanne that everything changed. They found refuge from the war and in turn, I would learn about the production and manufacture of yogurt. He learned it from a group of Albanians who worked in a similar line to his own and this laid the foundations to later bring this product to Barcelona.
The beginning of Danone's history
It was not until 1916 that the family was able to settle in Barcelona, specifically in a house in Carrer dels Angels, in the Raval neighborhood. When Isaac Carasso arrived, he did not waste any time, as in 1919 he built a laboratory to manufacture yogurt and founded Danone.
How did you come up with the name of the brand? This name comes from the appellative Danon, the name given to their son Daniel, the first-born of the family. A family name for a company that would end up selling products aimed at all types of families.
The beginnings were not a bed of roses for Danone. The yogurt was not a popular product in Spain and few were making eyes at it. Fortunately, Carasso found the support of the College of Physicians of Barcelona, who recommended the product for its therapeutic properties. It is not surprising, therefore, that it began to be sold in pharmacies. Yes, you read that right, Danone found its first sales in pharmacies in Barcelona.
This fame only grew when microbiologists with great recognition and even the Royal House, began to consume these products. Many began to think that it could help a healthier life and increased longevity for those who consumed it. One yogurt a day and you were all health, or so it seemed.
Danone's history around the world
To say that Danone's expansion had its ups and downs is no exaggeration, as they had to adapt to the socio-political situation at each moment. The Second World War and the Civil War in Spain slowed down its growth, but the company continued with its objective.
They wanted to move the product from pharmacies to markets most populars of the time. Madrid, Paris, they even reached the United States. The secret to reach the supermarkets, was to sweeten the product a little. Few noticed the change at first, but it turned out to be a much more attractive product for everyday use. With this curious story, Danone went from being a small idea out of a viscous liquid to an everyday supermarket product.