While many fluid milk processors are hopeful the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will soon ban use of the word milk on plant-based beverages, as its use violates the standard of identity for milk that specifies it to be a “lacteal secretion,” other milk processors are investing in efforts to showcase how cows’ milk may provide value to the consumer and to the planet.
After all, they learned during the pandemic, when fluid milk retail sales experienced unprecedented growth after decades of decline, that consumers appreciate milk and all it has to offer.
To continue to keep milk relevant with today’s planet-conscious consumers, processors are investing in efforts to make a range of sustainability claims, everything from touting their happy cows grazing on open pasture to carbon neutral farm-to-home refrigerator practices to improved recyclable packaging efforts.
Neutral Foods, Portland, Ore., is on a mission to reduce the carbon footprint of agriculture. The company works with dairy farmers to implement a number of strategies to drive down the carbon emissions of milk. What can’t be reduced is offset through the purchase of carbon credits from US dairy farmers who turn cow emissions into renewable energy.
“Solutions to reduce agricultural greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and increase sequestration on agricultural lands exist, but they’re expensive. We’re giving farmers the capital they need to adopt low- or no-emitting solutions,” said Ann Radil, head of carbon reduction at Neutral. “This year we’re investing in family-owned farms in Oregon and Washington, reducing GHG emissions by changing what cows eat and how nutrients are managed. Over their lifetimes, these projects will avoid more than 3,200 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent from entering the atmosphere. Next year we’re tripling our investment in family-owned farms across the US, funding tactics that reduce operational emissions or increase long-term carbon storage in vegetation and soils.”
Petaluma, Calif.-based Clover Sonoma, a third-generation family-owned and operated dairy and Certified B Corporation, is a leader in this space. The company’s closed-loop recycling system ensures that plastic is neither created nor destroyed, but re-used for a single purpose, and this is to form jugs for its organic gallon milk line. The company also made the conscious decision to reduce plastic waste by saying “no” to plastic caps on paper milk cartons. These cartons are now fully renewable.
When it comes to product innovation, Clover Sonoma shined this past year. The company was finally able to take its brand national with the launch of Organic Moon Milks. Steeped in ancient Ayurveda, one of the world’s oldest holistic healing systems, Clover Sonoma’s Moon Milks blend 2% organic milk with herbs and spices. The soothing botanicals infused in all three flavors can help promote relaxation and wellness throughout the day and can be enjoyed cold, warm or in a variety of recipes. The botanicals do not interfere with milk’s inherent nutrition. They remain a perfectly balanced, nutritious whole food with 11 naturally occurring vitamins and minerals providing 25% Daily Value of calcium and 9 grams of protein per one-cup serving. The company is also growing its Clover the Rainbow line of milk products formulated with kids’ nutritional requirements in mind. New offerings include Lactose Free Organic Whole Milk and DHA Omega-3 with Choline Organic Whole Milk.
Dairy creamer processors are premiumizing their offerings with new flavors and formats. Chobani, Norwich, NY, for example, offered a festive, limited-edition Paddy’s Lucky Batch Creamer for St. Patrick’s Day 2022. The creamer came in a bottle with green-and-orange packaging that featured a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow and a lot of four-leaf clovers. It poured green, thanks to a blend of fruit juice concentrate and turmeric, and tasted like mint cookie.
Seattle-based Starbucks Corp. added Starbucks Zero Creamers in caramel and hazelnut flavors to its coffee whitening lineup. The “zero” recognizes that the product contains no sugars. It is sweetened with sucralose and natural flavors.
Inspired by Starbucks’ signature handcrafted beverages – Caramel Macchiato and Hazelnut Latte – the flavored creamers have nonfat milk and heavy cream as the first two ingredients. The formulation also includes vegetable oil and buttermilk.
Even the whipping cream space saw some excitement this past year when Shamrock Farms, Phoenix, rolled out limited-edition Decadent Chocolate, Homemade Vanilla, Pumpkin Spice and Vanilla Bourbon seasonal flavors.
“People tell us they love our whipping cream and each year it becomes increasingly popular,” said Ann Ocaña, chief marketing officer. “Not only are people using it in recipes or to top beverages and desserts, but they’re also enjoying it as a treat on its own. Now with four new indulgent flavors, these first-of-a-kind whipping creams offer even more ways to enjoy our delicious creams in unexpected ways.”
Top fluid milk brands
Top flavored milk brands
- All data included in this fluid milk category report was provided by IRI, a Chicago-based research firm, and is current as of June 27, 2022.