Each 8oz serving of Lavva plant milk ($5.49) – launching in Whole Foods stores this month - contains 4g naturally-occurring sugar (from the coconut water), 3g protein (from the pili nuts), 11g fat, and 140 calories, which is comparable to whole dairy milk (which has 8g fat and 149 calories/serving).
The milk “boasts a subtle nuttiness from the pili nuts that compliment the real flavor of natural coconut water, creating a rich, smooth flavor and creamy texture,” co-founder and CEO Liz Fisher told FoodNavigator-USA.
“As the highest fat nut in the world, the pili nut itself has a buttery texture and just melts in your mouth,” added Fisher, who said the decision to develop plant milk as her next product was inspired by a conversation with Whole Foods last year.
“At Expo East the milk buyer at Whole Foods came up to our booth and said we’ve been watching the pili nut and wondered if you had ever thought about making a milk out of the pili nut.
“It really was that simple, and then we heard in February (2020) that they loved what we showed them, and here we are today.”
Lavva chocolate plant milk - which contains the pili milk base plus cocoa, maca root powder, dates, mesquite powder and Himalayan salt - has 110 calories per 8oz serving and 6g sugar, significantly less than other dairy- or plant-based chocolate milk brands.
As a comparison, Trumoo chocolate milk has 23g sugar, Organic Valley chocolate milk has 22.4g, fairlife chocolate milk has 12g, and Ripple plant-based chocolate milk has 15g.
No gums, emulsifiers, or added sugar
While the plant-based milk category has grown increasingly competitive, retail sales have grown strongly during the pandemic, and retailers and consumers are still open to products that bring something genuinely new to the category, said Fisher, who said Lavva sales were up 30% year-on-year.
“Lavva recognized a need in the market to create a more sustainable, non-dairy milk without emulsifiers, thickeners, and sweeteners. From there, we spent countless hours experimenting with real food ingredients to create a milk and creamer without requiring the additional oils, gums and agents.”
Pili nuts – which Lavva sources from Indonesia and the Philippines – also give the brand a point of difference in the market, both due to their allure (Americans may not recognize them, but instinctively see nuts as healthy), nutritional qualities (they are a complete protein and rich in magnesium and vitamin E), and sustainability credentials.
The nuts – which do not require pesticides to grow – “need nothing more than rainwater to sprout and grow, making them naturally sustainable and regenerative,” claims the company.
“Unlike many tropical crops that require deforestation, wild Pili trees prevent soil erosion and restore the land disrupted by nearby volcanic activity, as well as encourage the process of natural pollination without the use of chemicals.”
Lavva plant-based creamer ($3.49) - which combines the pili milk base plus coconut cream, coconut milk powder and psyllium husk powder - contains no extra oils (which are frequently added to plant-based creamers), stabilizers or added sugar, and delivers the creaminess and foaming properties consumers expect from a creamer, claims the firm.
While the fat content of Lavva’s plant milk is higher than most of the competition, most consumers are not overly anxious about counting grams of fat anymore, and are more worried about excessive sugar, said Fisher, who has a background in sales at brands including KeVita and Pirate’s Booty.
“I’m a big proponent of great quality plant fats as being something desirable in the diet. Not all calories are the same.”
As for protein, at 3g/serving, Lavva plant milk has more than almondmilk, coconutmilk, ricemilk and some oatmilks, although less than pea or soymilk, but as Americans are not generally short of protein, Fisher said she did not feel the need to add more just to match dairy milk.
Lavva launched in January 2018, underwent a packaging revamp in January 2019, and is now available in around 2,000 stores including Whole Foods, select Kroger banners and Sprouts.
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 yogurts have 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 plantains (which contain resistant starch, a prebiotic), and creamy cassava roots, claimed Fisher.
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.