Danone has today announced a deal with Yakult Honsha Co. Ltd. The French dairy products, mineral water and biscuits manufacturer said that it and Yakult have entered into an agreement to form a strategic alliance with the ambition to strengthen their global leadership in probiotics and to further accelerate the growth of both companies in the functional food and beverage market.

In order to formalise this relationship, Danone and Yakult have agreed that Danone will nominate two candidates to Yakult's board of directors while Yakult will nominate one candidate to the board of directors of Danone.

Yakult and Danone will also jointly establish a permanent liaison office. This liaison office will identify specific areas of collaboration focusing initially in the area of probiotics outside of Japan, and be responsible for the facilitation of joint projects such as cooperation in R&D, entry into new markets and other business projects which create value for both parties.

Finally, Danone and Yakult will create a Global Probiotics Council that will advance the cause of probiotics with all relevant interest groups such as consumers, regulatory authorities and the scientific community.

The agreement between the two companies has no impact on shareholding structures. Already the largest shareholder of Yakult when, in April last year, it raised its stake in Yakult  from 5% to 19%,  Danone has agreed not to increase its shareholding in the company beyond the current level for five years and not to increase it to such extent that it shall have effective majority control for another five years.

This alliance will not affect the continuity of Yakult's and Danone's existing relationships with their respective partners.

In a statement, Sumiya Hori, President of Yakult said: "The primary goal of this alliance is to strengthen Yakult and Danone's global leadership in probiotics by leveraging upon both companies' respective strengths and unique business models."

This agreement has immediate effect.