Developed by Liz Fisher (who has a background in sales at brands including KeVita and Pirate’s Booty), attorney Rebecca Cross, and designer Vivian Rosenthal – Lavva launched in January 2018, underwent a packaging revamp in January 2019, and is now available in 2,000 stores including Whole Foods, Sprouts, Wegmans, The Fresh Market and Safeway.
The plant-based yogurt category is notching up strong double-digit growth,* albeit off a small base, and is becoming a fiercely competitive part of the store with products from industry heavyweights such as Danone (Good Plants, So Delicious, Silk) and Chobani (non-dairy); plant-based specialists such as Daiya, Forager, Yooga, Kite Hill and Good Karma; and new entrants such as British brand Coconut Collaborative.
However, Lavva has a shorter, cleaner ingredients list, with no gums, stabilizers, flavors, added sugars or high intensity sweeteners, and a more appealing texture than competitors thanks to a combination of buttery pili nuts, starchy young plaintains (which contain resistant starch, a prebiotic), and creamy cassava roots, Fisher told FoodNavigator-USA.
“Pili has no real taste but it has a luxurious mouthfeel.”
No added sugar a key purchase driver
While the pili nuts are obviously a talking point (Lavva is one of the first companies to incorporate them into a packaged food), Fisher said the brand – which is backed by S2G Ventures and Collaborative Fund among others and is now raising more capital – is resonating with consumers on many levels.
“The fact that Lavva has no added sugar is really registering as a driver, almost as much as the plant-based aspect. I have one key account where the buyer says he has a responsibility to bring in more brands with no added sugar.
“I think there is also room in the category for something that’s just using whole foods and simple ingredients and a much lower water concentration. We’re less than 9% water.”
She added: “Mainstream consumers are picking up fewer cups of dairy yogurt per shopping occasions, and they are trying something else, so there is a lot of experimentation right now, which is good for us.
“Even though plant-based yogurts have been around for a long time, many people are trying them now for the very first time, so I think it’s going to sort itself out [the winners and losers] over the next six to 10 months.”
While at $2.49/cup, Lavva is more expensive than, say Chobani non-dairy, there is room in the market for premium options, while most of the ingredients are also organic, said Fisher. “We can’t play that yogurt pricing game, and our customers are prepared to pay a little more.”
Lavva ingredients (original): Organic coconut water, organic coconut cream, plantains, organic pili nuts, organic coconut powder, organic cassava root powder, organic lime juice, organic Himalayan salt, live vegan cultures.
Original Lavva (MSRP $2.49/cup) has 170 calories, 7g sugar (all naturally occurring mostly from the plaintains), 2g protein and 13g fat.
The new product pipeline
So what’s next for the brand, which is co-packed in upstate New York, with a west coast facility likely to follow early next year?
A trademark filing suggests possible moves into adjacent categories including non-dairy cheese, butter, creamers, toppings, baked good fillings, snacks, and beverages. However, the focus right now is on growing the core product, said Fisher.
“We’re working on products that utilize the pili nut, which is a very hot ingredient for followers of the keto diet because it is extremely low in carbohydrates, plus we’ll keep to our core tenets of no sugar added and cultured.”
*According to Nielsen data shared by The Good Food Institute, US retail sales of plant-based yogurts were up 54% in the year to August 11, 2018.