- Califia Farms will soon debut three varieties of an oat-based beverage containing extra protein and nutrients, according to a release. The drink, called Übermilk, will be available this spring at Whole Foods Market outlets nationwide in Unsweetened, Unsweetened Vanilla and Chocolate varieties.
- Übermilk contains eight grams of plant-based protein per serving — from peas, oats and sunflower seeds — and includes essential amino acids, fatty acids from plant oils, calcium, iron, vitamin D, potassium and vitamin E, Califia said.
- Greg Steltenpohl, founder and CEO of Califia Farms, said in a release that the beverage is one of the more nutrient-dense plant milks on the market and it "wins on taste and texture."
Califia Farms already has an extensive portfolio of plant-based beverages made from almonds, coconuts and cashews, as well as a lineup of cold-brew coffee products and plant-based coffee creamers — such as its new Oat Barista Blend introduced this month.
This Übermilk product seems like an astute and timely addition to the already established Califia family since oat-based beverages are trending upward as a plant-based alternative. According to Nielsen data, soy milk sales dropped nearly 8% for the last year ending Aug. 25, and a FreshDirect report from this past fall said oat milk is replacing nut-based milk in consumer popularity. The ingredient also has a sustainability factor adding to its appeal, since consumers are increasingly looking for more green practices in their food products.
"Oat milk is more sustainable and not as water intensive as other non-dairy milks, while also more abundant and inexpensive, which will help keep high-quality products at lower costs. Oat milk will continue to evolve in 2019 into new dairy-alternative products, such as oat-based yogurts and cheeses," FreshDirect predicted in the report.
But Califia may be arriving late to this party. Danone just introduced its three-variety Oat Yeah beverage lineup in January under the Silk brand. Sweden's Oatly brand, Planet Oat, Elmhurst, Thrive Market, Pacific Foods and Happy Planet already have oat-based beverages in the marketplace. In addition, Hälsa's vegan drinkable oatgurt" debuted last summer.
The extra protein in Übermilk is another marketing plus since consumers are increasingly looking to functional plant-based foods to enhance their intake. That factor, along with added calcium and other nutrients, helps counter the dairy industry's argument that plant-based beverages can't compete with milk on a nutrient profile level.
"We think there are still a lot of people that have not really switched over to plant milks because they have been somewhat influenced by the marketing of the dairy board or they have held onto long-term preconceptions (that plant-based milks are inferior to dairy nutritionally)," Greg Steltenpohl, Califia's founder and CEO, recently told Food Navigator.
According to a recent survey, about 44% of milk-consuming adults buy both dairy and plant-based milks, and more than half of them believe the "milk" label means the nutrition is the same. However, an eight-ounce serving of unsweetened Übermilk actually contains less sugar and more fiber, calcium and vitamin D than the same amount of 2% dairy milk, Food Navigator noted.
Califia's decision to use the word "milk" on its new line of oat-based beverages could be seen as provocative since the dairy industry has been fighting to keep it off labels of plant-based products. As a result, the Food and Drug Administration has asked the public to weigh in about what the term means to them, especially on products not made with conventional dairy ingredients.
Whether Übermilk will end up having to change its name will likely be determined soon — and depends on what the FDA decides to do. But since the word means an outstanding or supreme example of milk, the product may bear a target on its distinctive curvy bottle.
Meanwhile, the Übermilk line is likely to do well among plant-based beverage fans, although it's hard to tell how the Califia's other brands are faring since the company is privately held. It reportedly raised $50 million last summer from Ambrosia Investment and existing investors Sun Pacific and Stripes Group. Califia said the new money would expand manufacturing and get upcoming innovations to market. If the company's latest innovation with Übermilk is a success, then the brand will likely continue to launch new plant-based product lines.