Celebrating its fifth anniversary in 2020, Milklab looks back at how the brand has grown and the changing face of dairy alternatives and coffee.
Coffee usually plays a small role in fifth birthday parties – fuelling parents through the festivities – but for Milklab, it was the centrepiece. In 2020, the dairy alternative brand is celebrating the five-year anniversary of its launch with its customers and partner cafés.
Among the celebrations, Milklab has profiled the coffee industry members who contributed to the development of the range on its website and social media.
“Milklab was built off collaboration, it’s important to us that we continue to highlight the efforts of the people who helped create Milklab, so we can continue to grow with them and the industry,” Milklab Assistant Brand Manager Melissa Swinscoe says.
“Milklab was the first Australian brand to specifically design a plant-based milk range for coffee. In the last five years, the growth of both Milklab and the plant-based industry has been phenomenal and there is definitely so much more room for growth in this booming sector. We’re really proud of the loyal following we’ve developed, and we’re excited to continue to innovate for them.”
Prior to 2015, Melissa says there were few high-quality substitutes to traditional milk for people that were lactose intolerant or preferred a plant-based alternative, and that Milklab thought it could provide a better option.
“We wanted everyone to have access to quality plant-based coffee and we understood that this was a huge area for growth,” she says.
“Milklab was truly created from collaboration. We collaborated with baristas, café owners, Q Graders, and roasters to discuss what they wanted to see in the industry and what consumers were demanding. Our team worked with these collaborators to then innovate Milklab.”
This deep level of collaboration was key to Milklab making sure it was designing the right products and communicating in the right ways to its potential userbase. The brand also arrived just as the plant-based movement was about to explode.
“Consumers were demanding a high-quality dairy alternative range, which offered great taste and a creamy mouthfeel, so they could enjoy a quality plant-based coffee,” Melissa says.
“Baristas tell us that our range is easy to texture and stretch. Milklab is a high-performance range of alternative milks, which don’t coagulate or split, they’re creamy with a beautiful, decadent mouthfeel, and a taste that compliments the intensity of espresso.”
When Milklab first hit the market, its range included five products: almond, soy, coconut, lactose-free, and dairy. It introduced macadamia milk to its range in 2018, as well as a double-sized two-litre variant of its most popular product, Milklab Almond.
“At this time, many baristas told us that they were now using more almond milk than other plant-based milks, including soy. Some cafés are now even using close to, if not more, almond milk than dairy. Introducing Milklab Almond in a two-litre format was found to really support their needs, especially in high volume establishments,” Melissa says.
“Milklab Almond is the highest seller in the portfolio, and according to the Square Australian Coffee Report, almond milk coffees account for approximately 55 per cent of plant-based milk coffee orders. We continue to also see growth across Lactose Free, Soy, Macadamia and coconut [milks] in our portfolio.”
Melissa says the plant-based milk sector has ballooned over the previous five years and is expected to still increase by about 16 per cent annually until 2025.
The plant-based revolution isn’t exclusive to Australia either. Milklab has been able to extend its reach to several international markets – including South-East Asia, China, New Zealand, and even South Africa – with requests from as far as Europe, the Middle East, and North America.
“Internationally, ‘Australian Made’ is associated with high quality. There is great demand for our range from various global markets looking to better their alternative milk offering. Globally, consumers are demanding better quality milk for coffee,” Melissa says.
The Australianness of Milklab, which was developed for and in the country, has also been important to the uptake of its milks. With the many issues Australia has faced in 2020 – from bushfires to COVID-19 – Melissa says supporting locally-produced, Australian Made products has never been more important.
“More than ever before consumers want to follow brands which support their interest in ethical consumerism. They want to follow food brands which produce environmentally sustainable foods and fairly support the farmers who grow the ingredients. We’re proud that our ingredient sourcing and our manufacturing is fair, ethical and supports the industry,” she says.
“Consumers also tell us that they love that Milklab is Australian made and that they’re supporting jobs in Australia.”
The dairy alternative market is not the only one that has risen in recent years. Interest in coffee, especially specialty and high-quality offerings, has sprouted alongside it. While some cafés are doing it tough due to COVID-19 restrictions, that desire for quality from consumers hasn’t gone anywhere.
“Australian’s interest in specialty coffee has grown significantly and there are so many incredible roasters Across the country. As the industry has grown, we’ve seen a variety of trends with roasting and preparing coffee,” Melissa says.
Even larger coffee chains have upped their coffee game, included the milks and dairy alternatives they’re serving with their coffee. Milklab has recently partnered with the likes of McCafé, Muffin Break, and Jamaica Blue to bring their dairy alternatives to a wider audience.
“A lot of our consumers have told us that ‘quality coffee is now more accessible’ thanks to coffee chains such as McDonald’s now ranging Milklab Almond and Milklab Lactose Free in many McCafés too. Ordering through the drive through makes it so much easier to get a great coffee, at any time, day or night,” Melissa says.
With these chains promoting Milklab as a high-quality alternative, these partnerships have boosted the visibility and awareness of the brand, which Melissa says is to the benefit of independent cafés serving its milks.
“A lot of baristas tell us that their customers request Milklab by name because they’ve tasted it elsewhere and loved it,” she says.
“We’re seeing a shift where consumers are now looking to specifically choose their milks as well the coffee brand when they visit a café.”
Looking ahead to the next five years, Milklab will continue collaborating with the industry to provide solutions to new trends, tailored to coffee.
“We’ve got lots of exciting activity on the horizon and have had significant consumer feedback about what’s important to them and what they want to see next,” Melissa says. “We’ve got a very exciting 2021 planned.”
For more information, visit www.milklabco.com
This article appears in the October 2020 edition of BeanScene. Subscribe HERE.