Daniel and Nina Carasso

Daniel Carasso was born in 1905 in the Greek city of Thessalonika at the time of the Ottoman Empire. His ancestors from Spain had settled there some 400 years earlier. In 1917 Daniel’s parents, Isaac and Esther, decided to emigrate to Barcelona via Lausanne in Switzerland with Daniel and their daughters, Flor and Jeanne.

In Barcelona, Isaac struck up a friendship with Professor Elie Metchnikoff, who had won the 1908 Nobel Prize for Medicine for his work on the immune system. At the time, Metchnikoff was exploring the effect of fermented lactic acid on health. In Spain, children often suffered from food-related infectious diarrhoea. Isaac sought to find a cure. In 1919 he perfected a yogurt that was the first to be made from fermented milk. He then decided to market it through pharmacies with the support of Barcelona’s medical authorities. He branded his yogurt “Danone” after the affectionate Catalan nickname, “Danon, that he gave to his son Daniel.

While business for Danone-branded products began to truly boom in Spain and were sold in cheese and milk shops, Daniel Carasso headed for France. He studied business in Marseilles then bacteriology at the Pasteur Institute in Paris. In 1929, after trying to market fermented lactic acid in tablet form, he decided to follow in his father’s footsteps and launch Danone yogurt in France on an industrial scale.

In 1939 Isaac died. That same year Daniel married Nina Covo. She was the daughter of José Covowho had for a time worked with Isaac Carasso before becoming a stock broker in Paris than settling in New York in 1940.

In 1941, under threat from the Nazi occupation of France, the couple managed to secure passage on board a ship bound for the USA. They spent a long, unscheduled stop in Cuba, while waiting for their immigration visas. Then, just a few weeks later, in 1942, Daniel made a successful bid for a Greek-run yoghurt factory and founded the “Dannon Company”. He was careful to entrust Norbert Lafont and Luis Portabella – two exceptional men who would become true friends – with the job of running the company in France and Spain during the war years.

While Daniel divided his time between the factory and sales, Nina worked as a designer for haute couture fashion houses in in New York. A few years after the birth of the their daughter Marina in 1947, Daniel and Nina returned to France. Danone continued to expand in several countries and its business grew. In 1965, it merged with dairy company Gervais and, in 1972, Gervais-Danone in turn merged with the food and glass packaging group, BSN, headed by Antoine Riboud.

Although he no longer headed his new food corporation’s day-to-day operations, Daniel Carasso was daily involved in developing its business. He was acommitted advocate of quality products – quality in the choice of ingredients, their taste, the way they were kept and, of course, nutritional benefits and effect on health. In that respect, he was always a driving force of innovation in the company and in the vanguard of issues that today lie at the core of sustainable diets and food systems.

Nina Carasso passed away in 2007. Daniel followed her in 2009, the year that marked the ninetieth birthday of the first yoghurts produced in his father’s little factory.