If you’re like me, you might have an entire arsenal of milks — plant-based and otherwise — in your fridge.
Apparently, I’m not alone. Nearly 50 percent of consumers buy both plant-based dairy and old-fashioned cow juice. To answer that demand, last week, Minnesota-based Live Real Farms debuted a product meant to replace the entire dairy shelf. Their new Dairy + Blends are 50 percent dairy milk, 50 percent almond or oat milk.
“This is the first-ever milk blend,” Rachel Kylo, Live Real Farms’ SVP of Growth & Innovation, told me over the phone. They began developing the product a year ago, aiming to make something with the nutty flavor of oat or almond milk with the creamy texture and higher protein content of dairy. All of the blends are lactose-free.
Live Real Farms began testing Dairy + Blends in the Minneapolis market in late June. The blended product will roll out to more areas later on this fall through retail partner HEB, as well as certain Targets. The suggested retail price is $3.49-$4.49 for a half-gallon, which is slightly more expensive than conventional, non-organic cow milk but on par with many almond and oat alternatives.
This might be the first blended milk product, but startups and major corporations alike are already experimenting with other blended animal products — namely meat. The primary arguments for blended meat are a) environmental impact, and b) nutrition. By cutting the amount of meat in, say, a burger with plants, companies can make a product that has a small(er) environmental footprint and also less cholesterol, saturated fat, etc. Tyson’s forthcoming Raised + Rooted line features a beef burger blended with plant protein, and startup Better Meat Co. has developed a vegan protein intended to blend with pork.
According to Kylo, however, the main reason consumers are embracing plant-based milk is taste. They value the nutty flavors of alternative milk but also want the creaminess and nutritional profile of regular milk. That may certainly be one motivation, but it conveniently leaves out environmental or ethical arguments for getting off of moo juice.
It’s not surprising that Live Real Farms steers very clear of mentioning the environmental impacts of dairy farming. The brand is a subsidiary of Dairy Farmers of America (DFA), a milk marketing collective made up of 8,000 family farms.
Regardless of the PR schtick, the fact that a brand owned by DFA is launching a blended milk product is significant. It shows that milk alternatives are here to stay. Farmers may be trying to beat back their progress with labeling laws, but they clearly acknowledge that their popularity is not only inevitable, but is also a lucrative business opportunity. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.
DFA is exploring multiple ways to bolster milk sales amid a recent decline in the U.S. dairy industry. Just a few months ago the organization launched an accelerator program to incubate young dairy-focused startups and bring new technologies to the agricultural industry.
“The idea that people are either in the dairy or plant-based alternative camp is not the case,” Kylo told me. (Vegans excluded, presumably.) With the Dairy + Blends line, Real Live Farms is betting that consumers’ recent interest in milk alternatives is not just a stopover on their way to cutting out cow milk completely.
Live Real Farms is sending me some samples of their new Dairy + Blends, so check back in soon to read my product review.