Barleymilk: ‘It’s the first plant-based milk that tastes, nourishes and performs like traditional dairy,’ claims Take Two Foods

By Elaine Watson

- Last updated on GMT

There are currently four variants (SRP $4.99): Original unsweetened, Vanilla, Chef’s Blend, and Chocolate (Picture courtesy of Take Two Foods)
There are currently four variants (SRP $4.99): Original unsweetened, Vanilla, Chef’s Blend, and Chocolate (Picture courtesy of Take Two Foods)

Related tags Barleymilk Barley milk Upcycling spent grains Ab inbev plant-based milk

Plant-based milk is growing at an impressive clip, although not every subsegment is gaining momentum and not every new entrant has struck CPG gold. Barleymilk, however, has the potential to be a major player, and is every bit as exciting as current category darling oatmilk, argues the team behind Take Two barleymilk, which launched in the Pacific Northwest in 2020 and is rolling out nationwide this year.

A wholly-owned subsidiary of EverGrain​, which is owned by AB InBev, Take Two​ ​utilizes upcycled ‘rejuvenated’ brewer’s spent grains (which have historically been dumped or used in low-value applications such as animal feed or fertilizer) to create a product with a creamy taste and texture and the nutritional profile consumers are looking for (protein, vitamin D, calcium, but less sugar), claims the company.

More protein, less sugar, creamy taste, and added vitamin D and calcium

Made with EverGrain’s upcycled and highly-soluble EverPro BR protein​ (85% protein from barley and rice), Take Two barleymilk contains 5-8g protein (2% dairy milk has 8g), and 35% of the DV for calcium and 25% of the DV for vitamin D.

Sugar and calorie levels vary between flavors (0g/70 cals unsweetened, 3g/100 cals Chef’s blend) but compare favorably to dairy milk, which contains 11-12g sugar and 90-150 calories per 240ml serving, said CEO Sarah Pool, who says Take Two is “a very different product​” to Canvas barleymilk, an earlier iteration test marketed in 2017/18 before AB InBev had perfected its barley protein extraction process.

“Barley is not niche. It’s one of the largest cultivated grains globally, and Take Two barleymilk is really the first plant-based milk on the market that tastes, nourishes and performs like traditional ​dairy. Consumers love to try different plant-based milks for different usage occasions and I think ​oatmilk [growing at a triple digit rate and recently overtaking soy to take the #2 spot in the category behind almondmilk] and barleymilk are raising the bar.

Notably, she said, “Our barley protein is highly soluble so you don’t get the grittiness or texture you can get with some other plant proteins, and it has a really nice creamy full-bodied mouthfeel so you can drink it on its own, or use it in smoothies and baked goods. It also works really well in coffee, so you can drop it in and it doesn’t coagulate.

“For the coffee occasion in particular, I think oat and barley are the clear winners in the category.”

Take Two barleymilk Co Founders_Matt Olsofsky_Sarah Pool
Take Two barleymilk co-founders Matt Olsofsky and Sarah Pool. Picture courtesy of Take Two Foods

‘Take Two is a platform brand…’ Creamers, yogurts, cheese, ice cream in the pipeline

While the upcycling story is key to the brand – the name Take Two being a play on giving a second life to spent grains and the circular economy – the key callouts on the front of pack are protein and calcium, two things that many consumers are looking for from a staple like milk, she said. The upcycling story is told on the side of the pack, giving consumers interested in sustainability another reason to purchase.

“Billions of pounds of spent grain go to waste every single year, and it’s full of amazing plant fiber and protein that can be transformed into amazing foods that are better for you and the planet.

“So barleymilk is just the beginning; Take Two is a platform brand, so other products in the pipeline are plant-based yogurts, ice cream, cheese and creamers, but barleymilk is our focus for this year. Other products could launch in 2022."

Take Two barleymilk unsweetened

Take Two​ original unsweetened barleymilk contains 5g protein and 70 calories per 250ml serving. It has 35% of the DV for calcium and 25% of the DV for vitamin D.

Ingredients list (original unsweetened):​ Barleymilk (water, barley and rice protein), coconut cream, organic sunflower oil, pea protein, less than 1% of calcium carbonate, natural flavor, sea salt, organic locust bean gum, gellan gum, vitamin D2, organic sunflower lecithin.

Go to market strategy

The brand – which launched in Whole Foods in the Pacific Northwest in September 2020 – will roll out to some major accounts this year, including Sprouts (May 2021), said Pool. “We’re going from a regional company in 2020 to a national expansion in 2021 and we’re also launching a barista blend as part of a new shelf stable line.”

Other new accounts include Imperfect Foods, New Seasons Market, Gelson’s Market, Erewhon, and New Leaf Community Markets, said Pool, who has brought on several team members in recent weeks with experience at startups, high-growth emerging brands and more established brands.

Barley protein emerging as attractive new option in plant protein toolbox, says AB InBev-backed upcycling startup EverGrain


Barley proteins and fibers could make an attractive new addition to the food formulator’s toolbox in everything from bread and pasta to plant-based milks, says EverGrain, a new company backed by Anheuser Busch InBev dedicated to upcycling brewer’s spent grains into a range of value-added ingredients.

Barley is not a complete protein, but has a respectable PDCAAS score of 0.7, and can be combined with other proteins such as pea – as in Take Two barleymilk - if formulators are looking to balance out its amino acid profile. Read more HERE.

Plant-based milk by numbers

US retail sales of plant-based milk rose 17% to $2.362bn in measured channels in the year to September 6, 2020, according to data from SPINS​, which shows oatmilk - a relative newcomer - edging past soymilk to take the #2 spot in the category behind market leader almondmilk.

The key segments include:​​

  • Almondmilk ($1.497bn): ​​Refrigerated +13.4%, Shelf-stable +10%
  • Oatmilk ($213.35m): ​​Refrigerated +350.8%, Shelf-stable +106.4%
  • Soymilk ($202.25m): ​​Refrigerated -4.8%, Shelf-stable -2.1%
  • Coconutmilk ($125.1m): ​​Refrigerated +3.1%, Shelf-stable +50.5%
  • Ricemilk ($44.7m): ​​​Refrigerated -7.8%, Shelf-stable +4.1%
  • Peamilk ($42.6m): ​​​Refrigerated +11.9%, Shelf-stable +18.6%

Sales of smaller categories including walnutmilk (refrigerated -57%; shelf-stable -3.8%), and pecanmilk were down; while sales of flaxmilk were a mixed bag, with refrigerated sales down -7.9%, but shelf-stable sales (a far smaller market) up +54.3% over the period.

Cashewmilk displayed a similar trajectory, with refrigerated sales down -18.1%, but shelf-stable sales up +5.5%.

Some emerging categories showed strong growth (macadamia, seed blends, selected nut blends) albeit off a tiny base; however, not every new entrant to the category has hit CPG gold, with the first player to launch with a peanutmilk product pulling it from the market in 2019​​​.

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