Milk-alternative industry booming; raw milk might save dairy market

LOS ANGELES – Younger generations are substituting their favorite milk products and indulging in what they feel is a healthier alternative to dairy from cows.

According to Innova Market Insights, a company that analyzes global developments in food and drinks, in 2018, the milk-alternative industry is expected to top $16 billion in revenue worldwide.

Kippy Miller, owner of the first non-dairy ice-cream franchise in the world, Kippy’s! Ice Cream in Venice, California, said many alternatives exist for consumers.

“Non-dairy is interesting in that it is coconut, almonds, pecans, and soy, whereas dairy is just one perspective,” Miller said.

Goldman Sachs, the major investment bank, recently invested $65 million in Ripple Foods, a company that produces the newest milk alternative – yellow-pea milk, which is supposed to have the same amount of nutrients as cow milk.

Dana Hunnes, a clinical dietitian at UCLA, said milk alternatives offer a good amount of nutrients needed for a healthful diet.

“From the nutritional benefit of the protein that everyone seems to be concerned about and calcium and vitamin D, they are right on par with dairy,” she said.

Many consumers are moving away from dairy because of digestive problems, along with environmental concerns about raising cattle.

Venice resident Esther Van Zyl, 23, said she’s one of those people who sometimes prefers alternatives to dairy.

“I’m not vegan, or really even dairy free, but even at coffeeshops I tend to go towards the almond milk or coconut milk instead. It makes me feel better,” she said.

Kaleigh Lutz, owner of Organic Pastures, a raw milk farm in Fresno, California, thinks some health complications come from processed dairy. If produced the right way, she said, dairy is an essential part of a good diet.

“If I got stomach, cramps, bloating or phlegm in my throat, it would be impossible for me not to find an alternative,” Lutz said “Building knowledge to find out why your body is having a symptom is the real origin of the problem.”

But there are those who still prefer traditional cow’s milk in their daily diets.

Alex Krogedal of Santa Monica said he has been drinking cow’s milk his entire life.

“I just grew up on it, and it’s normal for me to have dairy every day,” he said.

Fifty-four percent of Americans still choose dairy as their main dietary protein, according to the International Food Information Council Foundation’s 2016 Food and Health Survey, and raw milk is one of the fastest growing sectors within that.

Organic Pastures has seen a 5 percent increase in sales annually, and Lutz said she hopes the dairy industry will survive despite the increasing demand for non-dairy milk.

For now, raw milk can be sold legally in just 13 states, including California and Arizona. It isn’t pasteurized, meaning the milk does not go through the typical heating process to kill certain bacteria. Raw-milk advocates argue this leaves the milk much richer in nutrients.

Even Miller, the owner of the Venice non-dairy ice-cream shop, agrees.

“Raw milk comes from small local producers, and in my opinion, that’s much more nutrient dense.”

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