Interesting developments are currently taking place in the dairy industry. As noted in a brief article in the Hustle, there seems to be a growing trend towards alternative cow-free, plant-based, lab-grown milk and a reduction in dairy milk consumption. This decrease and growing acceptance towards alternatives are said to be part of a larger movement that goes back decades. Several factors including changes in lifestyle, attitudes towards health, the environment and animal wellbeing, higher awareness of food sources and a growing number of choices may have led to its declining popularity.
In contrast, the future of the alternative dairy industry looks bright with strong projected growth rates around the world. To cater to the new demand, several companies, new and existing have stepped up to research and develop new products for the market. While this is good news for consumers, it puts the existing pressure on the already struggling dairy industry as the decrease in milk consumption by Americans threaten the livelihoods of dairy farmers and the companies that deal with them.
The conflict between the dairy and alternative dairy industry is clearly seen in the legal battles over what constitutes as milk. Over the last two decades, the dairy industry has been challenging their alternative counterpart’s right to use the word “milk” in their products culminating in the creation of the unpassed DAIRY PRIDE Act which argues that the nutritional content in plant-based milk do not match those provided by dairy and that customers may be unable to differentiate the two. Though the bill failed to pass, the animosity is felt.
Despite the present setbacks, alternative dairy shows no signs of slowing down as more companies take notice of its ability to completely reshape the food and beverage industry. With new companies emerging to cater to new developments and challenges both present and future, there will be ample opportunity to form innovative collaborations to take advantage of the growing market. One recent example is the San Francisco agricultural startup Perfect Day Foods that entered into a partnership with Archer Daniels Midland Company (ADM) to jointly increase the production of cow-free dairy for food makers to use. Meanwhile, traditional dairy companies are also looking into the new business and despite their resentment, have begun some cooperation with alternative dairy products and production of their own brands. Elmhurst a large dairy company that has been in the business since the early 20th century is one such example. The company restructured itself as Elmhurst Milked in 2017 and now deals in plant-based dairy.
Startups and smaller businesses are also making headway with many investors looking to capitalize on the new trend. Dean Foods, the largest dairy company in the United States has added Good Karma Foods, a company that specializes in flaxseed-dairy products into its portfolio by taking a majority stake in it. Other startups such as New Zealand’s New Culture that aims to create cow-less Mozzarella cheese and ForaFoods that make plant-based butter take advantage of accelerator programs, namely Indiebio and Mars’ Seeds of Change respectively.
The food and beverage industry is looking at huge changes in the future as alternative sources of food offers new perspectives to the way people look at and consume their food. With new alternative products entering the market, there will be more choices than ever. For environmentally-conscious individuals, the rise of alternative foods can be taken a good sign of progress towards a more sustainable future.