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Chinese dairy preparing $850 million bid to acquire Stonyfield Yogurt

John Blanding/Globe Staff

Stonyfield Yogurt, the Londonderry, N.H., company that is America’s top seller of organic yogurt, may be in for a culture change.

Last year, the company’s parent organization, Paris-based Danone Group, drew the attention of the US Department of Justice when it revealed its $10 billion acquisition of the WhiteWave Foods Co., the maker of the Silk soymilk and Horizon organic milk brands.

But subsequent concerns about a potential monopoly in the organic milk market led Danone to reveal in March that after 15 years of ownership, it would sell Stonyfield to avoid antitrust concerns.

For the past few weeks, there has been speculation as to who might acquire Stonyfield Farm Inc. On Wednesday, Reuters reported that Inner Mongolia Yili International Group Co., China’s largest dairy company, was among the bidders. A filing to the Shanghai Stock Exchange showed that the company was prepared to bid $850 million for the company, though it acknowledged that the bid may not be successful.

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Many large Chinese food companies have shown interest in purchasing American brands, both to gain expertise in the US marketplace and because of the perceived safety associated with US food companies. Over the past several years, Chinese consumers have faced a string of tainted food scandals, including one at Yili. In 2008, Yili was one of 22 Chinese dairy producers forced to recall their products after over 300,000 people were poisoned.

Today, Yili leads China in yogurt sales, and had a net profit of $820 million in 2016.

The Danone Group has not commented on the bid.


Janelle Nanos can be reached at janelle.nanos@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @janellenanos.