The alt-milk market is getting frothy. Here’s a dairy farmer’s guide to the competition

Lab-grown milk companies are taking off -- but they’re still a small glass of milk compared to plant-based alternatives.


August 5, 2019

American dairy farmers, who are dealing with a 35% decrease in mammal-milk consumption over the past 4 decades, have new competition: Lab-grown milk.

Startups such as Perfect Day and Motif have raised big bucks ($61.5m and $90m, respectively) to develop cow-free dairy products. 

These companies use microbes to grow dairy proteins that make their milks taste like, well, milk — and they’re also working on developing cow-free cheese, yogurt, and sour cream.

But lab-grown milks are far from dairy farmers’ biggest problem…

Petri dishes may pose a threat to mainstream milk down the road, but plants are the biggest threat today. 

Plant-based milks now account for 13% of the entire milk market, and sales in the $16B plant-milk industry rose 6% last year. 

Almond milk still accounts for ⅔ of all plant milk sold. But as consumer thirst for “alt-milk” continues to grow, plant-milk startups are winning over an increased “share of mouth.”

Meet the mock milks (and their makers):

  • Oat milk: Oatly, which did $110m in 2018 sales and expects $230m this year, recently opened a US plant and sells at 7k US shops.
  • Macadamia nut milk: Milkadamia, an Australia-based nut milk company, distributes to 5k stores in the US (including Walmart).
  • Pea milk: Ripple, which has raised $108.6m, partnered with Whole Foods in 2016 and increased sales there 300% in their first year.
  • Banana milk: Mooala, which is currently available in 2k stores but plans to sell in 3k by year’s end, recently launched a creamer line.
  • Flax milk: Good Karma struck a distribution deal with America’s largest dairy company, Dean Foods, in 2018. 

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