With $44M in funding, Ripple shows peas could be the future of dairy alternatives
- Two Silicon Valley venture capitalists have raised $44 million to power Ripple Foods, a line of yellow pea-based milk that they claim is tastier and more environmentally friendly than other plant-based milks in the marketplace, according to Bloomberg.
- Ripple's developers and founders — climate scientist Adam Lowry and biochemical engineer Neil Renninger — say their plant-based milk is better for consumers and the environment because yellow peas are inexpensive, grow fast, need less water than almonds, are not genetically modified like most soybeans, and impart a cleaner taste. Ripple also has 8 grams of protein per serving — produced through the company's own patent-pending method — which is comparable to soy and cow's milk but much higher than almond milk.
- The cost of Ripple's yellow pea-based milk product is $5.99 a quart, or about $1 more than soy milk and about 30% more than organic cow's milk. However, Renninger predicts the price will come down in the next couple of years to less than the cost of producing cow's milk.
The market for non-dairy milk alternatives is booming. Almond milk sales expanded by 250% from 2011-2015, while cow's milk sales fell 7% just in 2015 and are projected to drop another 11% through 2020. People are eating less breakfast cereal, but even when they do, plenty of them are reaching for plant-based milks rather than dairy products to pour over the top. Even dairy companies are hopping ont he bandwagon. Dean Foods, the largest milk supplier in the country, acquired a minority stake in Good Karma Foods of Boulder, Colorado, which produces yogurt and milk made from flax seed.
Ripple Foods hopes to position its yellow pea-based milk as a unique, tasty and environmentally friendly addition to the field. The company's products are available across the country at Whole Foods Markets, Target stores, Meijer Supermarkets, and local health food stores and co-ops.
This winter, Ripple Foods plans to bring out a plant-based Greek-style yogurt as its entry into the snack market. That product will join a crowded field of non-dairy yogurts — soy-based Wildwood, Stonyfield, Silk, Nancy's and Trader Joe's; coconut-based Coconut Grove, So Delicious and CoYo, and almond-based Amande and So Delicious.
The novelty of non-dairy products made from yellow peas could attract consumers. The company's emphasis on its relatively small ecological footprint — or what it calls the "Ripple Effect" — could also be a draw. Dairy production produces a significant level of carbon emissions, and one of Ripple's marketing approaches is to suggest that consumers can reduce their own carbon footprint by drinking its products.
Still, the sticker shock could dissuade the more cost-conscious shoppers out there. Nearly $6 per quart is quite a bit to pay for any plant-based milk product, although the cost could come down in the near future.
If the company manages to cut the price enough and consumers find they like the taste, Ripple's gamble could pay off. Then it might want to consider a rebranding effort, since the idea of "pea milk" might not sound appetizing to some consumers.