Consumers’ eating and drinking habits are changing due to concerns about personal health, animal welfare and the sustainability of the planet. As pointed out on page XX by Mike Hughes of FMCG Gurus, 45% of respondents across 26 countries have changed their diets in the last two years to lead a more sustainable lifestyle, and more than 40% of those respondents have done so by reducing or eliminating their dairy intake.
While there is a shift away from the dairy aisle, consumers who prefer traditional dairy products such as milk, cheese, yogurt and ice cream seek out products that align with their personal values.
Enter the world of dairy alternatives. Beginning with the mainstreaming of soy milk and now extending to nuts, grains and other sources, alternatives to traditional dairy offerings now crowd store shelves and restaurant menus.
Food & Beverage Insider spoke to representatives from three brands–Mooala, Alden’s and siggi’s—about lessons learned from formulating dairy alternatives.
Food & Beverage Insider: What inspired the decision to release a dairy-free product or line of products?
Naijia Huang, senior brand manager, siggi’s dairy: Siggi's was founded 15 years ago with the promise to provide consumers with products made with simple ingredients and less sugar. For years, we watched market trends and heard directly from our consumers who can’t have dairy that they wish those kinds of products could be found in the plant-based aisle. We decided to launch plant-based because we found that the existing products didn’t meet consumers’ needs in relation to protein, sugar and taste.
Eric Eddings, president & CEO, Alden’s Organic: Expanding into the dairy-free category was a natural extension of our brand. Part of our core mission is to make Alden’s Organic irresistible for all, so we knew we needed to add an exceptional dairy-free line to deliver on that promise to serve everyone. We discovered consumers are craving a dairy-free option that delivers an exceptional true-to-flavor experience, so we set out to develop a product line that would meet that need.
Jordan Campbell, vice president, marketing, Mooala: Jeff Richards, our founder and CEO, launched Mooala due to his own lactose intolerance and his inability to find a quality nondairy milk alternative he wanted to drink.
Food & Beverage Insider: What ingredients are you using to replace the dairy in your products?
Huang: siggi’s plant-based blend is made with a proprietary blend of coconut, macadamia and pea protein. Our recipe contains three times more protein and 40% less sugar than leading yogurt alternatives, and consumers will find a list of all-natural ingredients on the packaging.
Eddings: The core organic ingredients that make up our plant-based Oregon Blend recipe are brown rice, oat flour, coconut oil and pea protein.
Campbell: We have a line of almond milk, oat milk and Bananamilk. Our dairy-free Bananamilks are made from a base of filtered water, organic bananas and organic sunflower seeds.
Food & Beverage Insider: What was formulation process like that led you to those ingredients?
Huang: We found the pre-existing plant-based products available to consumers didn’t fit within the siggi’s brand when it came to more protein than sugar, simple ingredients and a creamy, thick texture. It took us two full years to develop our plant-based recipe because we know we had to get it right.
Eddings: We spent eight months and worked through 29 variations to develop our unique organic dairy-free recipe. The final recipe was selected because it provides a creamy yet neutral base that takes on the flavor profile of the organic ingredients inside. The result is true-to-flavor taste and texture.
Campbell: We wanted to create a plant-based milk that was both dairy-free and nut-free, since nut and dairy allergies affect many families. Bananas are a perfect base because they have low acidity and are well-loved by American shoppers.
Food & Beverage Insider: What was the most difficult formulation hurdle to overcome to perfect your nondairy recipe?
Huang: The most difficult part from a product development perspective was addressing all the needs of consumers and creating a product that fit within the siggi’s brand.
Eddings: Creating a dairy-free base that was creamy and neutral enough to deliver true-to-flavor taste and texture was a challenge. Once we were able to identify our core ingredients in our plant-based Oregon Blend, it was a matter of determining the right ratios to land on a recipe that would uphold the high standards of our famous ice cream. Taste, texture and shelf life were all critical factors to focus on when developing our dairy-free products. We implemented a process that freezes the dairy-free rapidly to form a smooth and superior body and texture. Lastly, we stabilize and emulsify the products to protect quality during distribution.
Campbell: The problem with a banana-based milk is using water and bananas alone yields a beverage that tastes like watered-down banana purée. In order to perfect the mouthfeel of the Bananamilks, we add sunflower seeds to enhance the creaminess. We don’t attempt to mimic the taste, texture or nutrition profile of dairy milk. What’s important to us is delivering a tasty beverage that’s light enough to top off your favorite smoothie or be poured over your favorite cereal but also flavorful enough to be enjoyed in a glass on its own.
Food & Beverage Insider: Do you believe this is a niche market, specifically for those who avoid dairy products? Or do you believe these kinds of products appeal even to those who would otherwise eat and drink traditional dairy?
Huang: While plant-based products cannot fully replace dairy products in terms of nutritional content, siggi’s plant-based blends are a great choice for anyone who is unable to eat dairy or is avoiding it for dietary reasons.
Eddings: By offering a dairy-free option that has true-to-flavor taste without compromise, we believe this product line will appeal to all ice cream lovers, whether they enjoy dairy, or are curious about dairy-free. We have already received feedback from those who have tried the new dairy-free line saying they “can’t believe” it’s not dairy ice cream. We know our consumers have a variety of wants and needs within their household, and they are looking for a brand that can provide them a range of products to serve everyone; we believe we’re that brand.
Campbell: We found that our plant-based milks are widely accepted by dairy consumers and nondairy consumers. In fact, in a recent survey, we learned that 44% of Mooala consumers also purchase dairy milk at least every two weeks.
To read related content, check out the Formulating for Success in the Dairy Alternative Aisle digital magazine.