Plant-based dairy alternative Mooala gets $5M in new funding
Mooala Brands raised $5 million in new capital after a funding round led by M3 Ventures and Sweat Equities, according to FoodBev Media. The organic, plant-based beverage maker plans to use the money to expand into markets in the Southwest, Midwest and Northeast.
The brand's products include organic dairy-free varieties of almond and banana milk that are sold at major retail outlets such as Costco, Whole Foods and Wegmans. With this new funding, Mooala said it hopes to grow its distribution network by 40% to more than 1,500 retailers.
"Most of the almond milk on the market is not USDA-certified organic, which surprises many consumers," Jeff Richards, company CEO and founder, told Food Manufacturing. "Mooala gives our fans a premium, organic experience for a great price — it's something the marketplace has been missing. And the resounding response to our products proves it."
Mooala has differentiated itself in the crowded plant-based beverage market thanks to its unique banana milk products. While the Dallas-based company hasn't released any sales figures, it claimed last fall that its beverages had generated "a huge following." That popularity may stem from the fact that its organic, nut-free and dairy-free banana and chocolate banana drinks were the first of their kind to hit the U.S. market.
The company has been doing well in its limited-distribution market, and its banana-based milks are certainly an eye-catching point of differentiation, but it will now have to step up and compete with other, more well-established plant-based beverages. Richards has called the plant-based beverage space the "wild west."
Consumer demand for non-dairy beverages is surging, rising 61% during the past five years, according to Mintel. Many plant-based milk producers have responded by developing milk made from a variety of other sources to gain first-mover advantages and to edge out their competitors. Elmhurst Milked, which switched from producing traditional milk for 92 years into a new non-dairy operation, boasts a portfolio that includes "milked" almonds, oats, cashews, peanuts, hazelnuts, walnuts and brown rice.
It will be interesting to see how Mooala's banana milks perform once they enter more mainstream markets. With so many different nut and grain milks available to consumers, this product could get lost in the shuffle. It may be wise for Mooala to develop a campaign that touts the nutritional benefits of banana milk in comparison to other plant-based dairy products like Ripple did for its pea milk. On-pack recipe and occasion suggestions could also help shoppers learn how best to consume the product and convince consumers who are on the fence.
In a market that's quickly becoming crowded with plant-based milk sources, there is a risk that consumers could start to become fatigued by the array of options. It's possible that shoppers could default to more traditional products like soy and almond milk, so upstarts will need to fight for repeat purchases. If they run into problems, there's always the option of being bought by a company such as Coca-Cola or PepsiCo looking to enter the nascent market.
- Food Manufacturing Mooala Secures Financing For Ongoing Expansion
- FoodBev Dairy-free drinks producer Mooala receives $5m in funding