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Califia Farms’ new products, packaging help drive non-dairy category growth, CEO says

By Elizabeth Crawford contact

- Last updated on GMT

Sales of nondairy milk in the U.S. have almost doubled from 2009 to 2014 and now account for 20% of the $24 billion dairy case market, according to recent research from Mintel. 

“We have seen over the last 20 years a gradual and now in the last five years a real sudden shift in the market share of nondairy products,”​ and “the category is going to leap forward even more,”​ said Greg Steltenpohl, CEO of Califia Farms, which is a major player in the nondairy category.

He attributes the growth in part to a “generational change”​ with younger consumers wanting fewer animal-based products due to concerns about animal welfare and the use of antibiotics and hormones to increase production. He also says many younger consumers prefer the taste of nondairy milks.

He also takes partial credit for the nondairy category’s overall growth, claiming Califia has led 50% of the growth.

It is doing this by rolling out a wide range of nondairy milk based products to complement its leading almond milk products, which grew 177% year over year – outpacing the overall almond milk segment’s 40% growth in the last year.

For example, in April, Califia launched limited edition Horchatas in Vanilla Coconut and Classic Cinnamon that combine almond-, rice- and tigernut milk for authentic flavor and texture, Steltenpohl said.

In addition, in March, Califia launched its first shelf-stable Single Serve Almond Milks in unsweetened, vanilla and chocolate flavors for on-the-go consumption.

It also kicked the year off with the nationwide rollout of its Almondmilk Coffee Creamers in Whole Foods Markets. The firm launched the line as an alternative to existing non-dairy coffee creamers, which it says often have partially hydrogenated oils and artificial chemicals that “don’t jibe with today’s health conscious consumers,”​ according to the firm.

The firm also is boosting the overall category by upgrading its packaging to bring “design excitement to what has been a very stiff and uniform category in the past,”​ Steltenpohl said.

Going forward, Steltenpohl said he sees potential for a “diversity of plant-based milks”​ beyond almond and soy to be embraced by consumers, including coconut milk, cashew milk and even grain-based milks.

With this in mind, he said, “we are going to be investing much, much more heavily in this category.”

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