Danone has reported a decline in net sales of 1.5% on a like-for-like basis, in what the yogurt maker has termed “a year marked by the health crisis”.

The company posted full-year net sales of €23.62 billion, compared to 2019 net sales of €25.29 billion. Operating income stood at €2.798 billion for 2020, representing a 13.6% decline from last year.

In the fourth-quarter, Danone saw its like-for-like sales fall by 1.4%, representing a “sequential improvement” from the two previous quarters.

Danone’s Essential Dairy and Plant-based (EDP) division’s sales were up 3.4% like-for-like to €12.82 billion for the full-year. Plant-based sales amounted to €2.2 billion, growing at 15%.

Meanwhile, the company’s Specialized Nutrition and Waters divisions were impacted by Covid-related channel disruptions including out-of-home channels – which declined by approximately 25% in Q4 thanks to new restrictions and lockdown measures.

The firm’s Specialized Nutrition business recorded a 0.9% like-for-like decline in net sales to €7.19 billion in 2020, with a less significant drop in Q4 thanks to improvements in all regions.

Infant formula sales in China from cross-border channels continued to decline sharply – given the ongoing Hong-Kong border closure and travel limitations with mainland China – at 45% in the fourth quarter, but showed a sequential improvement from last quarter. Meanwhile, domestic channels were back to growth in Q4 thanks to a strong performance by Aptamil.

The owner of Evian and Volic saw its full-year Waters unit net sales fall by 16.8% like-for-like to €3.61 billion.

Danone continues to reinvent itself with a profitable growth ambition by reviewing and investing in its portfolio, funded by its €1 billion saving plans. Chairman and CEO Emmanuel Faber, who is under growing pressure as shareholders push for governance changes, says 2021 will be a year of recovery.

In line with its plan, Danone has announced today the acquisition of Earth Island, maker of Follow Your Heart. “This is building further on our global leadership on plant-based, now representing 10% of our sales,” added Faber.

For 2021, Danone expects a tough Q1 but to be back to growth as of Q2, with a return to profitable growth during the second half of the year.