Developed by Liz Fisher (who has a background in sales at brands including KeVita and Pirate’s Booty), Lavva launched in January 2018, underwent a packaging revamp in January 2019, and is now available in 2,000 stores including Whole Foods and Sprouts.
While it has focused its attention on the natural channel (Fisher notes that up until a year ago, almost 50% of sales in the plant-based yogurt category were generated by Whole Foods alone), it has recently been courting conventional accounts, and is about to embark on tests in selected Kroger banners and has just arrived in 50 Target stores in the Southeast, along with Amazon Prime Now.
The plant-based yogurt category is notching up strong double-digit growth,* albeit off a small base, but has become fiercely competitive as more brands pile in, with products from industry heavyweights such as Danone (Good Plants, So Delicious, Silk), Chobani (non-dairy) and Yoplait (Oui dairy free); plant-based specialists such as Harmless Harvest, Daiya, Forager, Ripple, Yooga, Kite Hill and Good Karma; and more recent entrants such as British brand Coconut Collaborative, said Fisher.
"The category has become very price driven, and we're around 20% more expensive than some of the bigger brands, but our product is very different and people can see that we're adding value [most of the ingredients are also organic]."
'The no added sugar aspect is really resonating'
While the pili nuts are a talking point (Lavva is one of the first companies to incorporate them into a packaged food), Fisher said the brand – which counts S2G Ventures as its lead investor, raising $3.5m in its Series A and $12.5m in its Series B - is resonating with consumers on many levels.
Notably, 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, claimed Fisher.
"I think the no added sugar aspect is really resonating and you see within the [plant-based] category that no-added sugar products are doing better, and this is only going to become more important with the [new-look] Nutrition Facts [labels, which required added sugar to be listed in grams]," she told FoodNavigator-USA.
"I think the new labeling is opening a lot of people's eyes, they see 20g of added sugar and they're going, Woah!"
Other messaging that is resonating includes the 'real, whole food ingredients' angle, the gut-friendly angle (Lavva contains pre- and probiotics) and Lavva's unique buttery texture, which reflects that fact that its products have just 9% water, whereas many rivals have up to 70% water, creating a thicker texture by using gums and thickeners, she claimed.
Ingredients (vanilla): Organic coconut water, vanilla (vanilla extract, vanilla bean seeds, lemon juice), plantains, organic pili nuts, organic coconut powder, organic cassava root, organic lime juice, organic Himalayan salt, live vegan cultures.
Each 5.3oz cup has 140 calories, 6g sugar (naturally occurring, mostly from the plaintains), 2g protein and 11g fat.
The new product pipeline
So what’s next for the brand, which is co-packed in upstate New York?
A trademark filing suggests possible moves into adjacent categories including non-dairy cheese, butter, creamers, toppings, baked good fillings, snacks, and beverages.
However, Lavva's focus for the immediate future is plant-based yogurt, with its latest innovation – Molten Lavva – promising a more decadent experience by removing the plaintains (a source of carbs) and focusing on pili nuts, which are rich in healthy fats.
Given the richness of the product (strapline: 'clean, cultured, keto') - which is based on Fisher's original recipe for Lavva - Molten Lavva will be sold in 4oz cups, and will debut at the Natural Products Expo West** trade show next month.
Due to enter the market later this year, Molten Lavva comes in four indulgent flavors (Chocolate, Chocolate Raspberry, Espresso, Vanilla Chai, and Key Lime) and is the first Certified Keto vegan yogurt in the category with 3-4g net carbs per 4oz container.
*According to SPINS data shared by The Good Food Institute, US retail sales of plant-based yogurts grew 39% to $230m in the year to April 21, 2019. Source: SPINSscan Natural and Specialty Gourmet (proprietary), SPINSscan Conventional Multi Outlet (powered by IRI)
**Visit Lavva at Expo West booth #H503