Founded by serial entrepreneurs Neil Renninger and Adam Lowry, Emeryville, CA-based Ripple Foods utilizes novel technology that strips out unwanted components (color/flavor) from commercially available plant protein isolates to yield ‘Ripptein,’ a neutral-tasting protein that can be incorporated into foods and beverages in high quantities.
By overcoming the sensory barriers, Ripple has been able to dial up the protein (8g per 8oz serving, original flavor) and dial down the sugar (6g per 8oz serving, original flavor) to create an allergen-friendly (soy-, dairy-, nut-free) beverage with a sixth of the saturated fat and half the sugar of 2% dairy milk, and eight times the protein of almond milk, making the brand particularly attractive to households with children, said Flanagan.
The brand’s new kids’ line builds on this with the addition of prebiotic fiber, choline, and the long chain omega-3 fatty acid DHA, said Flanagan, who said consumers buying Ripple believed it had “either the same or better nutrition than dairy milk,” while parents were looking for more protein, less sugar, and added key nutrients such as calcium, B vitamins and DHA.
Ripple's growth is outpacing the category by 3x
While several brands have launched pea milks in recent years, most have not been successful “because they haven't been able to deliver a clean taste and great texture,” claimed Flanagan, who said Ripple still dominates the category, and is outpacing the overall plant-based milk market by some measure.
"Ripple's growth is outpacing the category by 3x,” claimed Flanagan, who said Ripple had seen sales grow 20% year on year in measured retail channels in the year to date vs 6% growth for the overall plant-based milk category.
“Our growth is coming from a combination of both very strong velocity growth – so same store sales where we're currently in distribution - as well as distribution growth in new retailers, and getting more SKUs into existing retailers," she told FoodNavigator-USA.
'When a retailer adds Ripple to the shelf, it's highly incremental to category sales’
The Ripple brand – which launched in early 2016 - is now sold in over 20,000 grocery stores across the US and has extended into protein drinks, frozen desserts, kids’ products ,and half and half (although not everything it has touched has turned to CPG gold, notably plant-based yogurt and ‘superfood’ milks).
“Retailers love Ripple as much as consumers do, because when a retailer adds Ripple to the shelf, it's highly incremental to their category sales,” said Flanagan, “so we've seen tremendous success in grocery, and we'll be using this fundraise to expand into other channels including club, convenience stores, and foodservice.”
Accelerated growth in the e-commerce channel
The e-commerce side of the business is also doing well, she said, with growth in direct-to-consumer sales, on platforms such as Amazon, and on retail partners’ online shopping platforms.
“Our sales on Amazon are 10x what they were a year ago; it's been a tremendous success story, and we're going to continue to see accelerated growth in the e-commerce channel. We've brought on talent within the company with expertise in e-commerce and in shopper marketing so we're really able to partner with retailers to help them grow their e-commerce business.”
She wouldn’t provide a timetable, but said Ripple – which is already in Canada - is now looking at other overseas markets in the medium term.
“There’s tremendous growth runway domestically, but we also see an enormous opportunity outside of the United States where there is the need and preference for dairy free products, whether it's due to dairy sensitivities or lactose intolerance or just flexitarian consumers who are looking to put more plant-based foods in the diet.”
New products… and animal-free dairy
Asked about new products, she said Ripple was exploring multiple areas including cheese, and had recently developed a pea-fueled soft serve ice cream: “We have shown it to several retail and foodservice customers and gotten a tremendously enthusiastic response.”
While Ripple Foods co-founder Neil Renninger co-founded synthetic biology pioneer Amyris, Ripple is not getting into the emerging ‘animal-free’ dairy category (deploying synthetic biology to program microbes to produce dairy proteins such as whey and casein), she said.
“Our consumer research has been very clear; consumers are looking for great tasting and nutritious plant based offerings, and ingredients and processes that they can understand.”
* The latest funding round was led by Rage Capital, Ajax Strategies, and S2G Ventures, and backed by other investors including OurCrowd, GV, Prelude Ventures, Euclidean, Fall Line Capital, and Tao Capital Partners.
Interested in dairy, meat, and seafood alternatives?
Checkout FoodNavigator-USA's FREE 'Disrupting the Meat and Dairy Case' 3-part series:
Oct 13 (10am PT/1pm ET): Where next for meat alternatives? From plant-based burgers to fungi-fueled bacon - featuring Kroger, Atlast Food Co, Nature's Fynd, Nowadays, Oterra, and Roquette
Oct 20(10am PT/1pm ET): Where next for dairy alternatives? From oatmilk to ‘real’ cheese (minus the cows) - featuring Danone, NotCo, BioMilk, Change Foods, RSSL, and CP Kelco
Oct 27(10am PT/1pm ET): Where next for seafood alternatives? From tuna to shrimp - featuring the Good Food Institute, Good Catch, Ocean Hugger, New Wave Foods, and Aqua Cultured Foods.