The Alternative Dairy Co is taking its business to the next level, thanks to partnerships with Soul Origin and the Franchise Council of Australia.
In a year as unpredictable as 2020, there’s at least one thing people can be sure of: the need to support local. With borders closed, planes grounded, and travel limited, consumers have been encouraged to explore their own neighbourhoods and are seeking products that support the community.
Based in New South Wales, The Alternative Dairy Co has felt this support ripple through the café industry. Boosted by the launch of its Barista Oat Milk about a year ago, the Australian owned plant-based milk supplier has gone from strength to strength in 2020.
“Because of the lockdown, consumers are increasingly supporting local companies and products, and we’ve got a beautiful Australian owned, grown, and made story,” says Marcus Fehlberg, Café Trade Marketing Manager for The Alternative Dairy Co.
“We have data that shows even pre-COVID, [being made locally] was the third priority in the decision making process. Now, it’s number one, even above price.”
With strong uptake in independent cafés, The Alternative Dairy Co was encouraged to look into other segments where it could make its mark, seeing potential in the franchise market. With coffee chain Soul Origin, it found a kindred spirit with shared values.
“The café culture is strong in Australia and it’s only going to grow. A lot of franchises are picking up their coffee game and we want to support them to develop a product offering that is best in class,” Marcus says.
“Soul Origin are really ahead of the curve here and have a quality coffee and café offering with a trendy aesthetic. Since they’re an Aussie success story and we’re one in the making, we saw Soul Origin as the pinnacle nationwide franchise to work with.”
Since September 2020, Soul Origin has stocked The Alternative Dairy Co Barista Oat and Almond milks in all of its coffee shops across the country. Soul Origin will officially add Alternative Dairy Co’s Soy Milk in early 2021, although Marcus says some stores have already made the switch.
The Alternative Dairy Co began conversations with Soul Origin about its almond and soy milks in early 2019, but Soul Origin Ambassador and National Coffee Coach Sam Taylor says the addition of an Aussie-grown oat milk turned that talk into action.
“Over the last 12 months, with oat milk becoming a more prevalent player in the coffee market, The Alternative Dairy Co has done some really cool things in that space,” Sam says. “We were one of the early adopters of oat milk in the mass market and we feel like the partnership with The Alternative Dairy Co is only going to strengthen that position for us.
“Almond milk is also a significant player in the Australian consumer market and its version with Australian almonds really complements our coffee. It puts us in a strong position moving forward.”
Sam agrees that the local connection was an important factor in the partnership, but adds it was one of many things that aligned the brands.
“Given the year that is 2020, it’s never been more relevant to the consumer to support Australian and it was a great opportunity to partner with an Australian based company that produces its milks using Australian ingredients,” he says.
“But we’ve always partnered with the suppliers and producers we feel will give us the best product outcome. The Alternative Dairy Co has done a lot of work on the flavour profiles and formulations of its milks to get them to a point where they are coffee perfect. Both companies have product quality front of mind, then comes providing the Australian consumer with a product they can connect to.”
Finding a single supplier for its dairy alternative range has also given Soul Origin a consistency across its stores.
“Plant-based milks are a rapidly growing category and the mix of alternative and traditional dairy is shifting in favour of alternative dairy milks,” Sam says.
“As the options have evolved, people have picked up new dairy alternatives as they entered the market. We saw this as an opportunity to consolidate that range with one partner, to offer our consumers the best option moving forward.”
While the Soul Origin partnership is The Alternative Dairy Co’s first step into the franchise space, it won’t be the last. The brand has partnered with the Franchise Council of Australia (FCA) as its first preferred dairy alternative supplier to its members.
“We want to work for and with the industry. That’s where this idea came about, ‘how can we better support coffee chains?’ Working with independent cafés is our bread and butter, but working with franchises is a whole other kettle of fish,” Marcus says.
“Forging this partnership with the council was the first step in that process. The Council has put a lot of work into establishing franchising as a valid business opportunity in this country, working with the government to maintain fairness in the industry.”
Mary Aldred, CEO of the FCA, says the partnership was a natural step for the council, with demand rising for plant-based products.
“Franchisors in the food and beverage space are increasingly responding to rising consumer demand for plant-based and sustainable food options,” Mary says.
“The FCA’s partnership with Alternative Dairy Co is designed to provide members with access to quality Australian-grown plant-milk products to service this growing market.”
But The Alternative Dairy Co’s new focus on franchise businesses will not detract from its services to the independent coffee market, with education playing a key role going forward.
The brand launched its new website in November, including blogs and information for and from the coffee industry on topics including training with plant-based milks and pairing the right milk with the right coffee.
“We want to work with baristas and café owners on initiatives that help them progress in the industry, run their businesses better, and improve their bottom line,” Marcus says.
“We’re looking to develop more strategic partnerships with key players in the industry. With everything that’s been happening this year, we all need to be there and support each other. That’s exactly what we’re going to do.”
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