PARIS May 18 (Reuters) - Daniel Carasso, whose father named Danone yoghurt after him in 1919 and who set up the brand in France 10 years later, died on Sunday aged 103, French food group Danone said on Monday.
Carasso, born in 1905 in Thessaloniki, went on to set up Dannon in the United States, expand in countries including Mexico, Brazil and Morocco and see through two key mergers.
And as honorary chairman of the group he took part in celebrations to mark the 90th anniversary of the Danone brand earlier this year.
"We all know how much our group, which carries his first name, owes to Daniel Carasso, who dedicated all his boundless energy and optimism to its success ever since 1929," Danone Chief Executive Franck Riboud said in a statement. Carasso's father Isaac started selling yoghurt with cultures from France's Pasteur Institute in pharmacies and on doctors' recommendations in Spain after World War I, taking the Catalan diminutive of Daniel -- Danon -- and adding an "e" to get around authorities that would not register a proper name.
Four years later, in 1923, Isaac sent his son to Marseille to study business. Daniel Carasso subsequently attended the Pasteur Institute and in 1929 set up the Societe Parisienne du Yoghourt in the northern 18th district of Paris.
Danone merged with fromage frais company Gervais in 1967 to create Gervais-Danone. But the turning point came when Carasso met Franck Riboud's father Antoine, head of BSN Group, in 1972, and a year later the pair merged BSN and Gervais-Danone.
Thirty years after the merger, Carasso that the creation of the larger group had been "the crowning reward for a lifetime of efforts". Danone today has some 76,000 employees and had sales in 2008 of 15.2 billion euros ($20.48 billion). ($1=.7422 Euro) (Reporting by James Regan; Editing by Dominic Evans)