nondairy beverages and the corresponding rise in choice
o;ered,” says Jim Richards, CEO of Burr Ridge, Ill.-based
Jindilli Beverages, producer of macadamia nut milk brand
Milkadamia. First introduced to coffee shops in ;;;;,
Milkadamia has since expanded to grocery retailers such
as Walmart Inc., which recently launched the brand’s new
refrigerated line, merchandised alongside traditional milk
It’s the inundation of plant-based milk alternatives in
the dairy aisle that has fueled the dairy industry’s backlash,
arguing that not only is use of the name “milk” inaccurate
but also that the number of milk-labeled products is caus-
ing consumer confusion. Based on the claim that shoppers
perceive plant-based milk products as ;avored variations
of cow’s milk, the North Carolina General Assembly’s ;;;;
Farm Bill has banned the marketing of plant-based brands
from being labeled “milk.”
But some plant-based brands feel the dairy industry is
milking the system for all its worth. “There may be some
in the industry who are a little bewildered at how quickly
large numbers of consumers are moving away from dairy,
but consumers themselves? Their choices are being driven
by increasing clarity, not confusion,” Richards says. “Plant-
based milks loudly proclaim they are nondairy, and they
do it because that is what their informed consumers are
Torn between appealing to consumer demand and minimizing confusion, some retailers have begun to label dairy-free milk alternatives as “drinks” or “beverages,” such as
Monrovia, Calif.-based Trader Joe’s, which o;ers dairy-free Trader Joe’s Cocoa Almond Cashew Beverage. Other
grocers focus on informing the consumer of the di;erence
between cow’s milk and plant-based milks. PCC Community Markets, for instance, has a detailed list of dairy alternatives on its website.
The shift from dairy products toward plant-based alternatives largely revolves around health
concerns, because consumers increasingly perceive plant-based foods to be
healthier than animal-based products.
Moreover, according to Nielsen, plant-based beverages can
be a point of entry to functional ingredients.
“Consumers are voting with their wallets and choosing
to buy better-for-you products as an investment in their
health,” Hayden says.
But milk alternatives aren’t the only plant-based prod-
ucts consumers are turning to for nutritional value.
Natalie’s Orchid Island Juice Co., based in Fort Pierce, Fla.,
o;ers small-batch, clean-label, minimally processed juices
free from arti;cial ingredients, preservatives and GMOs.
Similarly, Alo Drink boasts a lineup of organic aloe vera
juice derived from a sustainable farm in Thailand. Its prod-
ucts are Non-GMO Project veri;ed, gluten-free, fat-free
and contain no arti;cial ;avors, colors or preservatives.
“Sourcing is becoming a large part of what consumers are seeking to understand,” says Drew Pawlan, sales
and marketing associate for San Francisco-based Alo
Drink. “Transparency in how products are made, and the
quality of ingredients used, will become more and more
demanded by consumers of plant-based products,” and
programs such as the Non-GMO Project, as well as greater
transparency in the sourcing of grass-based products, will
become the norm, he says.
Growing consumer concern over animal welfare and
environmental impact has also contributed to the rise of
“The bedrock underpinning the spirit and mood of
this period in human history is the rise and rise into daily
human consciousness of anxiety for the planet’s future,”
Richards says. “To win support from consumers, food producers need to be part of the solution, not be viewed as part
of the problem.”
Consumers are voting with their wallets
Dairy Council Questions Natural Innovations
and choosing to buy better-for-you
products as an investment in their health.”
—Madeline Haydon, Green Grass Foods
While plant-based brands have been the primary target of the dairy industry’s
campaign to promote milk consumption in the U.S., innovative dairy brands
have not been excluded from the controversy. Earlier this year, the a2 Milk Co.
found itself as the latest victim of backlash from the National Dairy Council,
which claimed the brand’s A1 protein-free milk has “no nutrition or health
benefits beyond regular milk,” according to a company statement. “What is it
going to take to get the American dairy industry to embrace disruptive natural
innovations like a2 Milk that can help reverse the decline in dairy consumption
and make a meaningful di;erence to peoples’ lives?” said Blake Waltrip, U.S.
CEO of the New Zealand-based brand.
Founded in 2000, a2 Milk is a dairy product derived from cows that naturally
produce milk with only the A2 protein type vs. conventional cow’s milk, which
contains a combination of A1 and A2 beta casein protein types. Research has
found that proteins in milk a;ect some consumers’ health di;erently, and that a2
Milk is easier on human digestion compared to conventional milk, according to
Consumer demand for plant-based milk alternatives can in part be attributed
by dietary restrictions; an estimated 1 in 4 Americans struggle with digesting
conventional dairy milk. But a2 Milk provides an alternative for these consumers
while still supporting the dairy industry. The company has distribution in more
than 3,600 stores across the U. S., including Wegmans, Stop & Shop, Whole
Foods Market, Sprouts and Safeway.