- Perennial, a California-based startup, debuted its inaugural product: a plant-based, non-dairy, ready-to-drink beverage for consumers 50 and older. It contains a proprietary combination of fiber, vitamins and plant protein to promote healthy aging by emphasizing gut, bone and brain health. The product has no lactose or cholesterol, the company said, and no artificial colors, flavors or sweeteners, gluten, GMOs or animal products.
- Co-founders Brent Taylor and Sara Bonham said innovation is lacking for the 50-plus consumer, so they decided to develop plant-based products for this "forgotten demographic."
- The company noted in a release that 10,000 Americans turn 65 every day, 8% of the population is 65 or older, and the population is projected to grow 13% by 2030. The market of those 50 and older comprises 39% of all online purchases, but only 1% of global innovation and 10% of marketing dollars are directed at the demographic, Perennial said.
Perennial seems to be taking a different route than most food brands by targeting an overlooked demographic — people 50 and older. Combining that marketing approach with a non-dairy beverage taps into two popular trends and, as the company puts it, "goes beyond the animal" by offering the same complete protein and nutrient levels contained in 2% dairy milk.
The company's co-founders come from plant-based food backgrounds, so it makes sense they would head in that direction with their own startup. Brent Taylor co-founded Beyond Meat. He left that company in 2016 with the idea that the older demographic wanted healthier, plant-based products, but innovations weren't being marketed to them. Sara Bonham was the CEO and co-founder of Willow Cup, whose latte and coffee creamer products replicate the taste, texture and nutritional profile of dairy milk. She previously worked in packaging and operations at General Mills.
Taylor told Fast Company there was plenty of frustration in recognizing that "perennials" — what sociologists call baby boomers and their parents — were "a very forgotten demographic in food and beverage." It's not that boomers aren't interested in plant-based options; the co-founders told Fast Company they noticed their own parents were. But food companies have been tied up targeting millennials and members of Generation Z with snacks and prepared foods, so Perennial seems well-positioned.
The non-dairy milk sector is a crowded field these days, but Perennial's first product might be able to stand out with its differentiated marketing approach to older consumers. It's initially being offered online only, with a 12-pack priced at $34.99 plus shipping, and a 24-pack costing $69.99 with shipping — about $2.91 per 8-ounce carton. Since the target demographic might not be shopping in the adult nutrition sector of retail stores, the company can sell online and learn more about its target consumer before launching into retailers.
Another advantage for the new product is that it doesn't label itself as "milk," a term which has raised the hackles of the conventional dairy industry. Instead, the 8-ounce carton has the words "Non-dairy nutritional beverage" on the front, along with the company name. This marketing move could enhance its chances for success, along with its emphasis on gut, bone and brain health.
Current consumer trends seem to be leaning in the company's favor. Plant-based beverages posted impressive gains from 2012 to 2017, with sales up 61% during that time. Sales of dairy milk dropped 15% between that same period, according to Mintel figures.
It's likely Perennial will bring other plant-based products to market as time goes on. According to BevNET, the company has raised $2.5 million so far from investors, including Collaborative Fund, Powerplant Ventures, SOSV and family offices in the U.S. and Canada. With a target consumer that isn't being tapped by other companies, substantial funding and the experience of the founders in the plant-based sector, Perennial seems to be primed to disrupt the space.