- Annabella Buffalo Creamery, a Colombia-based maker of water buffalo cheese, has turned a surplus of water buffalo milk into yogurt and is exporting five varieties to the U.S., according to Dairy Reporter.
- Andres Salazar, managing director of Annabella Buffalo Creamery, told Dairy Reporter the milk contains only A2 protein and the yogurt has almost twice the calcium and half the cholesterol of yogurt made from cow's milk.
- The company said the products could help bring consumers back to dairy from plant-based beverages because yogurt made from A2 water buffalo milk is suitable for those with lactose intolerance. New flavors and products could emerge early next year following Annabella's current focus on brand recognition, the company said.
Yogurt made from water buffalo milk is popular in markets around the world, and now that trend is coming to the the U.S. Annabella Buffalo Creamery started out producing water buffalo milk-based mozzarella six years ago and branched out from there. It now makes cheese, yogurt and dessert items in small batches and flies them from Colombia to Miami for further U.S. distribution.
The company could see a successful launch in the U.S. because it has an unusual product made with A2 milk that could appeal to those with cow's milk allergies or lactose intolerance. The National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse estimates that 30 million to 50 million Americans are lactose intolerant, so this new milk product could capitalize on that market. Most milk contains both A1 and A2 proteins, but some research has found that A1 can be problematic for people with these sensitivities. The New Zealand-based a2 Milk Company is also bringing A2 milk to the U.S. and has invested in education to spread the word about its benefits.
This could be a good time for buffalo milk to hit the U.S. market if it can bring consumers back to dairy, which has suffered from the increasing popularity of plant-based beverages. Traditional dairy sales fell 15% between 2012 and 2017, while non-dairy milk sales jumped 61% to more than $2 billion each year, according to Mintel.
Consumers may be willing to try yogurt made from water buffalo milk since it's different and may appeal to those who are more adventurous when it comes to experimenting with new foods and beverages. It also presents an opportunity for indulgence since water buffalo milk reportedly contains about twice the fat of cow's milk. And the products are likely to attract people with lactose intolerance or sensitivity, which means it could start chipping away at the plant-based audience.
However, availability of Annabella water buffalo milk yogurt appears limited at this point. The products — currently available in Plain, Honey, Passion Fruit, Blackberry and Strawberry varieties — can be ordered online or purchased at Earth Fare retail outlets in Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee. Cases of six are listed on the company's website at $14.99 each, making each six-ounce yogurt cup about $2.50 each.
There are some dairy operations raising water buffalo for milk and yogurt products, but Annabella doesn't seem to have any major competition yet from any large producers or manufacturers. Most current facilities raising water buffalo are sprinkled around Canada and a handful of U.S. states. However, that could change if the products take off and demand starts to rise. And it might take time for other producers to launch into the market. Salazar told the Dairy Reporter it took a few years for the company to go through the Food and Drug Administration's inspection process, which could potentially limit competition.
The animals have some advantages when compared to dairy cows. Water buffalo are considered hardy, adaptable, placid and docile, and they can thrive on mediocre forage. While their individual milk output is lower than dairy cows, they can be milked longer, so it's possible some dairy farmers may start investing in them instead.