The nondairy milk industry is booming. Sales surpassed $2 billion in 2013, and while they make up less than ten percent of the dairy market, they're currently outpacing traditional dairy sales.
While animal-based milks are still popular, especially organic and pasture-raised dairy, America’s taste for dairy has declined over recent decades. Or rather, the taste has shifted from a glass of milk to cheese. Lots and lots of cheese. Consumption of cheese has steadily inclined in recent years while fluid milk sales have dropped to their lowest since the early 1980s, down more than 25 percent.
But that’s not the case for nondairy milk. Once occupying a dusty little corner of a shelf in the out-of-the-way natural food store, nondairy milks now have their own cooler sections in stores like Whole Foods, Target, and Costco. It’s not just for the wheat-germ-hippie crowd anymore, nor the modern vegan (sorry, "plant-based"). Nondairy is big business—versatile, delicious products that are better for the planet (and the uninvolved livestock animals) and loaded with human health benefits, too. It also serves a growing number of people diagnosed with dairy allergies and intolerances.
Unlike dairy where there are really only two choices: cow or goat milk, there are scores of options for nondairy: almond, soy, rice, flax, hemp, cashew, oat, and now, would you believe pea and potato milk?
Promoting itself as the first nondairy milk actually made from vegetables, Veggemo is coming to a nondairy set near you soon; and it truly is made of veggies, according to the company.
“It doesn’t taste or look like vegetables. In fact, Veggemo tastes uniquely and spectacularly like Veggemo,” the company website states. “With the smoothness and creaminess of 2% dairy milk, Veggemo is rich in calcium, Vitamin D, and is an excellent source of B12.”
The product calls on potatoes, cassava root (also known as tapioca), and pea protein, which is making the rounds in the vegan products of late including Gardein mock-meat products and Hampton Creek’s product line including its Just Mayo eggless mayonnaise. It’s a “clean” plant protein and unlike soy, a popular milk substitute, not at risk of being genetically engineered since there are no GE peas in production. (Approximately 90 percent of the soybeans grown in the U.S. are genetically modified.)
“We didn’t want another soy, rice, or almond product,” Wade Bayne, vice president of marketing, told FoodNavigator-USA. “We knew per capita consumption of dairy milk has declined over the years, so we thought ‘where’s the white space?’”
Unlike many of the nondairy milks (and other products) crowding out natural food shelves, Veggemo wasn’t something developed in someone’s garage or kitchen that friends and family raved about, urging them into large-scale production. Its origins are more market research based.
Global Gardens Group, the parent company of Veggemo vigorously researched the nondairy customer, segmenting the nondairy drinker into several categories (vegans and vegetarians were only about 15 percent of the total, by the way). They followed them to the stores (with permission, of course), looked through their cupboards, and led focus groups to get as clear a picture as possible of what nondairy drinkers really want.
And once all the data was in, the company established flavor profiles and textures that were in direct response to consumer feedback. If that sounds a little clinical, it is. Kind of the opposite of dunking a freshly-baked cookie into a glass of milk. But when it comes to formulating a “perfect” milk, the sterility of the approach may help to bring that authentic “milk” experience to the user.
As awkward as that sounds, it may not be a bad thing, particularly if Veggemo is able to satisfy. And with nondairy milks only accounting for a small fraction of the overall "milk" category, there's good reason to bring science into the equation. "New" nondairy customers will most likely be either "nondairy curious" or straight-up milk converts, and the grittiness of a soymilk or a watery rice milk may not deliver the "milky" flavor and texture they're used to. But Veggemo just might.
Veggemo is expected to hit stores in the U.S. this March.
Related on Organic Authority
Cereal and milk image via Shutterstock