Many plant-based brands challenge the notion that dairy milk sets a nutritional benchmark that plant-based milks should match in order to use the term ‘milk’ on their labels (the Ninth Circuit recently rejected this argument). They also note that consumers buy their wares for multiple reasons including taste, variety, lower calories/sugar, lactose intolerance, milk protein allergies, sustainability or animal welfare concerns.
However, there is a sub-segment of consumers looking for more protein and micronutrients from plant-based milks, particularly if they are going to give them to their children, CEO Greg Steltenpohl told FoodNavigator-USA.
“We think there are still a lot of people that have not really switched over to plant milks because they have been somewhat influenced by the marketing of the dairy board or they have held onto long-term pre-conceptions [that plant-based milks are inferior to dairy nutritionally]."
Our reason for being is to bring new people into the category
He added: “There are also many mothers in our focus groups with children that are vegan or vegetarian that worry whether their kids are getting a complete protein or enough protein during the day. So we’ve got protein from peas, oats and sunflower seeds so you get all those essential amino acids that get you very close to a complete protein.
“Our reason for being is to bring new people into the category, and the data usually shows that when we enter a category we grow it and become the largest contributor to the growth in that category, both here and in the UK.”
Übermilk: Less sugar than dairy, more calcium and vitamin D
Formulated with oatmilk, pea protein, sunflower oil & seeds, flaxseed oil, and vitamins and minerals, Übermilk has a thicker texture than regular oatmilk, and was formulated to provide a more complete protein and offer essential fatty acids (flaxseed contains the short-chain omega-3 fatty acid ALA, although not the longer chain omega-3s in fish oil and algae such as EPA and DHA), said Steltenpohl.
“There’s so much choice now in plant milks, which is great, as people pick different ones for different reasons, but I feel like some consumers are saying wouldn’t it be nice if somebody just tried to put the best of all worlds into one package? It’s also less stuff to add to your smoothie [consumers often add seeds and protein powders to their plant-milk smoothies, he noted].”
Ingredients (unsweetened Übermilk): Oatmilk (water, oats), pea protein, sunflower oil, minerals (calcium carbonate, dipotassium phosphate, sea salt, tricalcium phosphate), sunflower seeds, flaxseed oil, natural flavors, gellan gum, vitamin D2 mushroom powder.
Each 8oz serving has 140 calories, 1g fiber, 8g protein, 2g sugar, and 45% of the DV for calcium, 25% of the DV for vitamin D, 15% of the DV for iron, and 10% of the DV for potassium and vitamin E.
How does Übermilk compare to 2% dairy milk?
Per serving, unsweetened Übermilk has 140 calories, 1g fiber, 8g protein, 2g sugar (naturally occurring), and 45% of the daily value (DV) for calcium, 25% of the DV for vitamin D, 15% of the DV for iron, and 10% of the DV for potassium and vitamin E.
2% dairy milk from DairyPure has the same number of calories (140), no fiber, slightly more protein (10g), a lot more sugar (13g, naturally occurring), and slightly lower calcium (25% DV), vitamin D (10% D), iron (0% DV); the same amount of potassium (10% DV), plus 15% of the DV for vitamin A.
Rice, coconut, and nut milks typically have 0-1g protein, while oatmilks have around 2g. However, legume-based milks such as pea and soymilk have around 8g.
Fortification with vitamins and minerals varies between plant-based brands, with most adding calcium, but not all adding vitamin D, for example. Ripple also adds the long-chain omega-3 fatty acid DHA to its pea-based milks.
Our January 2019 output from our own facility was double what it was in January 2018
Califia Farms – which unveiled its barista blend oatmilk at the Winter Fancy Food Show in January and is launching an unsweetened oatmilk in the spring- is continuing to deliver strong growth, said Steltenpohl, who joined as CEO in 2010.
“One thing I can tell you is that our January 2019 output from our own facility – which doesn’t produce a 100% of what we do, but it gives you an idea - was double what it was in [January] 2018 , which makes me feel really good."
A tipping point?
He added: “I think the category is very strong and I also think that we are trying to be prepared for a possible tipping point.
“I don’t know when, but we just feel like there is a critical mass of factors under the surface, whether it’s animal rights, the environment, or just the diversity of great quality products out there now in plant-based could just add up to a tipping point where the decline in dairy may suddenly accelerate, and you have to think ahead.”
“Nutritionally Übermilk is one of the more nutrient dense plant milks on the broader market with a powerful combination of both macro and micro nutrients, and most importantly it wins on taste and texture, thanks to our naturally creamy and great-tasting Oatmilk serving as the base.”
Greg Steltenpohl, founder and CEO, Califia Farms.