This yogurt maker wants to give fake milk a real taste


Executives at the company, which owns the plant-based dairy brands Silk and So Delicious, as well as the cow’s milk brand Horizon Organic, believe that something important is missing from the dairy aisle: a plant-based alternative to milk that tastes like milk.

To fill this gap, Danone is launching two new dairy-type dairy alternatives in North America: Silk Nextmilk and So Delicious Wondermilk, the two blends made from oat milk, coconut milk, coconut oil and soy protein, among other ingredients. The products are each 2% fat and will hit US grocery store shelves in January with a suggested price of $ 4.99 per carton. Nextmilk will be available in regular grocery stores and Wondermilk in natural grocery stores. Wondermilk will also be used in a new line of dairy-style ice cream that will be available through the So Delicious brand.

One challenge for the company is that milk, and its knockoffs, is already a fairly crowded category.

Cow’s milk comes in organic or regular whole milk, skimmed, 2%, as well as fortified options and lactose-free alternatives. Non-dairy milk consists of almonds, soybeans, and of course, oats. At the margins are coconut, cashews, rice and even potatoes. Many of them are available in a variety of flavors and have sweet or unsweetened options.
And although this is an emerging category, there are already alternatives to milk on the market that aim to look more like the real thing. Chilean startup NotCo is behind a product called Not Milk, which is made up of water, sunflower oil, pea protein and a bit of pineapple juice, among others. Nestlé launched a pea-based drink called Wunda in Europe this year. And Impossible Foods said that he’s working on “Impossible Milk” which, like his burgers, is supposed to look and taste the real thing.
Other options could follow. A company called Perfect Day, for example, uses fermentation to create a milk protein free of ingredients produced by animals. This protein is used in ice cream today and may be included in more dairy products in the future.
Corn Danone (DANOY) hopes the pair of alternative milks she is launching will appeal to a specific type of consumer: someone who wants to move away from cow’s milk and add plant-based drinks to their diet, but really love the taste of milk From a cow. The company is betting that there is a large untapped market of people waiting to buy non-dairy milk until the right option presents itself – and either Nextmilk or Wondermilk will do the trick.
Basically, Danone wants to do for vegetable milk what Impossible Foods and Beyond meat (PARND) made for plant-based burgers. The question is whether consumers who have flocked to plant protein will do the same for plant milk.

How Danone made Nextmilk and Wondermilk

It took a few years for Danone’s team of experts to come up with the new drinks, said Takoua Debeche, director of research and innovation for Danone North America.

“We have tried to mimic both the positive and negative attributes of dairy flavors,” Debeche said. Cow’s milk is soft and creamy, she says. But it’s also sour, bitter and salty. Danone tried to match these flavors, as well as the texture of the milk, using herbal liquid mixtures. In the end, Debeche and his team landed on the mixture of oats, coconut and soy in each type of alternative milk.

Although the two products are based on most of the same ingredients, they are not entirely the same, Debeche explained. Silk’s nextmik is designed to be eaten on its own (or perhaps with a hot cookie). You can also do this with Wondermilk, but this version was designed with cooking or baking in mind.

To this reporter, they each seemed to be a passable substitute for milk.

The full fat version of Nextmilk is smooth and rich and tastes a bit sweet and a bit sour, as Debeche promised. It’s still identifiable as an alternative – the color and texture is a bit off, and there’s a nutier base – but it’s a closer approximation than soy, almond, or oats. Whole Wondermilk milk looks a bit whiter and chalkier and has a milder flavor, but is still quite close to the mark.

A holy grail

Sales of milk substitutes may be growing, but the $ 2.5 billion category is still far behind the $ 11.2 billion US cow’s milk market. The category also lags in terms of household penetration or the percentage of consumers who buy a product. For cow’s milk, the penetration is around 94%, Danone said, citing data from IRI. For vegetable milk, this figure is around 40%.

“We believe there is a huge opportunity to bridge the gap between households that currently have cow’s milk in the fridge and those that currently have plant-based drinks in their fridge,” John Starkey, President of Foods and herbal beverages for Danone North America. , told CNN Business.

Making a product that looks and tastes like milk is key to achieving that goal, he said. Customers who buy cow’s milk may be doing so because they “have the comfort and a lot of reassurance of longing for dairy,” he said. By developing products that mimic the look, taste and texture of milk, Danone believes it has broken “one of those holy grail barriers that keep consumers away from herbal drinks”.

The company hopes customers will love the product, but won’t give up the plant-based or regular milks they previously purchased from Danone.

“Each person in the household does not necessarily have the same tastes, needs and wants,” Starkey said. “So we really want to make sure (…) that we have a portfolio of offerings that can meet all consumers’ desires and tastes.”

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Many American adults do indeed buy multiple types of milk, said Sydney Olson, food and beverage analyst at Mintel. About 17% of American adults buy at least four types of milk and 39% buy two to three, according to a Mintel, who surveyed 2,000 Internet users. adults in June on their milk purchasing habits over the previous three months.

For Danone, this could mean that Nextmilk or Wondermilk could be taken in the fold: a buyer could add it to the mix, while also purchasing other types of milk for different applications – coffee, cereals, smoothies – or to adapt. to different tastes. But it could also mean that buyers will band together, swapping multiple cartons for a new one. A dairy-like product could “help American adults … save money and time by not buying four different types of milk,” Olson said.

But Danone will have to tout its health benefits in a way that makes sense to consumers, which could be trickier for a plant-based dairy brand than one that makes plant-based burgers.

“With meat, it’s very clear… you’ll have a burger every time you feast,” said Maria Mascaraque, who oversees food and nutrition research at Euromonitor. “I don’t think cow’s milk or dairy products in general have as bad a reputation as processed meats.”


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