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How Plant-Based Milk Flooded The Market

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00:00   |   Jun 28, 2019

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  • Beyond Meat surprised the stock market when the company turned
  • out to be the best IPO of 2019.
  • "Beyond Meat", "Beyond Meat", "Beyond Meat".
  • Alternative meat was having a moment.
  • Alternative milk, on the other hand, has been quietly
  • revolutionizing the dairy industry for years.
  • Milk, the kind from cows, was once a staple of the American
  • diet, but now consumers have their choice between almond milk,
  • rice milk, hemp milk, coconut milk, soy milk—you get the idea.
  • Here's how plant based milk is taking on the $107 billion dairy
  • industry. Milk gained popularity after World War II.
  • Dairy farmers had amped up milk production to supply the war
  • effort, but when the war ended, farmers struggled to sell all
  • the milk they produced at a favorable price.
  • So, the government stepped in.
  • Some methods the government used to drive demand included adding
  • dairy as its own food group to the USDA's food guidance and
  • instilling it in school lunches across the nation.
  • But in 2019, Americans are drinking less and less milk.
  • In fact, milk consumption has fallen nearly 40 percent since
  • 1975. Analysts say a big reason behind the shift is Americans
  • growing more aware of milk allergies and intolerances.
  • People are turning to plant-based milk and people with extra
  • cash would also rather spend the money on soy and almond than
  • organic milk.
  • The dairy industry isn't too happy about the changes.
  • The dairy industry is challenged really at all levels. Look
  • at the farm level with milk prices having been low for the past
  • few years.
  • Profitability for dairy farmers has been very weak.
  • You're seeing a lot of financial pain at the farmer level,
  • you know, coming through to the processor level where Dean Foods
  • is—that's more of a reflection of, you know, these multi-decade
  • declines in fluid milk consumption that don't really seem to be
  • evading.
  • In response, the dairy industry attacked the plant-based
  • alternatives for branding their items as "milk."
  • Plant-based milk companies use the term because it's easier for
  • consumers to understand.
  • The dairy industry thinks it's misleading, which is why you see
  • "coconut beverage" on some containers instead of coconut milk.
  • And in 2017, Senator Tammy Baldwin proposed the Dairy Pride Act.
  • It would "require enforcement against misbranded milk
  • alternatives".
  • In 2018, the FDA addressed the dairy industry's concerns.
  • They called the labeling "misleading" and said that it, "could
  • compromise the health and wellbeing of consumers."
  • However, no standard has been put in place.
  • And despite backlash from the industry, dairy-related companies
  • are seeing the popularity in nut-based drinks as a business
  • opportunity. In 2017, Danone acquired WhiteWave, the company
  • behind Horizon Milk and Silk Pure Almond, for $12.5
  • billion. Since the purchase, Danone stock has gone up more than
  • 30 percent.
  • Analysts say the dairy industry has failed to innovate and as a
  • result, sales of milk have dropped by $4 billion since 2015.
  • But tech innovations have improved and more plant based products
  • have appeared on the market, and they look pretty similar to
  • milk too.
  • Meet Michele Simon, the executive director of the Plant Based
  • Foods Association whose members include Beyond Meat and Blue
  • Diamond Growers.
  • She explains that plant-based beverages like soy have been
  • around for a long time and it was the marketing of soy milk that
  • opened the door for plant-based drinks.
  • What really brought soy milk into the mainstream market was when
  • it shifted away from that type of merchandising to being sold
  • in the refrigerated section right next to cow's milk.
  • So they changed the packaging and went from those shelf-stable
  • packages to the familiar gable-top milk style packages and sold
  • it right where cow's milk is sold.
  • And it worked.
  • Today, almond milk dominates 68 percent of the plant-based
  • industry with soy milk leading in second at 13.8
  • percent. Former milk producer Elmhurst Milk 1925 shifted from
  • cow's milk to nut-based beverages in 2017 after signs of the
  • declining industry.
  • The change came when CEO Henry Schwartz met food scientist
  • Cheryl Mitchell who was perfecting a way to use the whole part
  • of the nut for nut-based beverages.
  • Here's Cheryl Mitchell explaining Elmhurst's HydroRelease
  • process.
  • When we do the HydroRelease method, it's kind of like power
  • washing. Instead of grinding to a flour, everything comes off in
  • layers, right, and it's actually a very gentle, gentle process
  • here and big particles, right.
  • Well, that's what you want to do with a fiber is that you want
  • to make sure that the fiber stay very long makes them easy to
  • separate from the protein.
  • And, that's what the hydrorelease process so I was able to
  • figure out the right equipment to make sure all of this happens.
  • Oh, and by the way, Cheryl thinks it shouldn't be called
  • plant-based milk.
  • Elmhurst 1925 calls it "milked" because they're literally
  • lactating the milk.
  • According to IBISWorld, a market research organization, the
  • plant-based beverage industry could be worth $2.4 billion
  • by 2024, but it's facing challenges.
  • Some companies often have trouble keeping up with demand and to
  • see where the old school dairy industry is going.
  • Some analysts say to look at the coffee industry.
  • A 2016 Wells Fargo report draws parallels between the milk and
  • coffee industries.
  • From 1946 to 1996, coffee consumption declined by 56 percent,
  • but since 1997 it's rebounded by 14 percent.
  • The coffee industry had become complacent with producing instant
  • coffee and had continued to market to adults instead of a larger
  • market. Coffee intake was also down due to speculative links
  • between caffeine and cancer, high cholesterol and other health
  • diseases. Sound familiar?
  • The dairy industry has the same problems.
  • The game changer for coffee was focusing on premium and
  • specialty coffee.
  • So we think what the milk category is really missing is, you
  • know, what coffee leaned on 30 years ago.
  • It's quality.
  • It's marketing, it's investment, it's branding and we've seen
  • that with Fairlife, you know, from Coke and I think that that is
  • a little case study that shows that if you do have an emphasis
  • on quality, emphasis on taste, you know, marketing dollars
  • behind it you can actually drive growth in the category and even
  • at higher price points.
  • While plant-based milk may be the newest threat to cow's milk, it
  • wasn't the first.
  • The dairy industry also dealt with the rise of soda and bottled
  • water. So as plant-based meats take on Wall Street and hit store
  • shelves, remember it was plant-based milk that flooded the
  • market first.

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Description

Alternative meat might be having a moment. Beyond Meat's trading debut quickly became the best-performing IPO of 2019. But alternative milk has been around for a lot longer, and it's forced the $107 billion dairy industry to evolve.

consumers have their choice between almond milk, rice milk, oat milk, hemp milk, coconut milk and soy milk—you get the idea. Americans are drinking less and less milk now that store shelves are flooded with more and more options.

Paul Ziemnisky, EVP of global innovation at Dairy Management Inc., which represents dairy farmers, told CNBC in a phone interview that fluid milk, however, remains in 94 percent of households. He added that the dairy industry is finding ways to innovate through new flavors and products like Fairlife, a high-protein milk brand distributed by Coca-Cola.

"The plant-based guys like to poke and grab at just one number of a category, but we have strong pockets of growth," he said, adding that Fairlife has seen strong revenue numbers. "It's not just white milk anymore — it's milk with valued-added features."

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How Plant-Based Milk Flooded The Market