The Alternative Dairy Co has experienced the strongest sales on record for its home-grown range of barista plant milks, despite the negative impact of COVID-19 lockdowns on the nation’s café businesses.
The Australian owned and made brand has seen its sales triple in the first quarter of FY21, compared to the last quarter of FY20.
This business says this has been fuelled by a clear shift in consumer preference towards locally made products and a fast-growing taste for plant milks by Australia’s sophisticated coffee drinkers. 55 per cent of whom, according to IBISWorld, prefer their morning brew at their local café and overwhelmingly want their coffee white.
In recent years dairy-free milk alternatives have continued to surge in popularity, with almond milk officially overtaking soy as the most requested dairy alternative in 2019. Almond milk is tipped to continue to grow, but it is oat milk’s dairy-like taste and creamy texture that has industry pundits predicting it’s the plant milk to watch over the next five years.
The Alternative Dairy Co enjoys the backing of Sanitarium Health Food Company, an Australian-owned company sometimes credited with introducing Australians to soy milk in the 1980s and has enjoyed success with its So Good brand for more than three decades. According to Steve Beams, Sanitarium Health Food Company, General Manager – Sales, the reason people were increasingly turning to plant milks was two-fold.
“People have long been attracted to the health benefits of plant milks, but a growing number of socially conscious consumers are now also seeking food and drinks with stronger sustainability credentials. In coffee, the decision to switch from dairy to a plant milk is now easy too, because it no longer represents a compromise on the coffee experience,” says Steve.
While this trend is adding momentum to the uptake in plant milks, Steve says it also gives The Alternative Dairy Co a strong market advantage, particularly in competing with some of the global dairy free milk brands.
“The Alternative Dairy Co sources Australian almonds from the Murray-Darling region. Our supplier Select Harvests is committed to sustainable agriculture and has implemented some innovative solutions at their orchards to minimise the use of water and energy and support bee health. All our oats are locally grown too,” he says.
“Using Australian ingredients is a win-win because we’re getting the best quality raw ingredients while supporting Australian agriculture. Plus, we make all our milks on the New South Wales Central Coast.”
Australians have always loved the idea of supporting Australian owned businesses and locally made products, but the COVID-19 pandemic has seen consumers turning this sentiment into action. This is another trend that has played to The Alternative Dairy Co’s advantage.
“What we have seen in the last few months is an increasing push in the marketplace for people wanting to support local – both in terms of the businesses in their neighbourhood, but also the products they sell. Our plant milks not only tick this box, but they’re as good as if not, better than – any other product on the market,” he said.
The Alternative Dairy Co first entered the café scene in 2018 with its soy and almond barista milks. Keen to build on this success, the brand launched oat milk in 2019 to create a strong trio of high-performance plant milks expertly crafted for Australian baristas and latte lovers.
Collaborations between Sanitarium food technologists and leading baristas have helped to perfect a product portfolio with a creaminess, flavour, and ability to texture or ‘stretch’. The Alternative Dairy Co also benefits from Sanitarium’s nutrition and quality assurance expertise, ensuring the milks produced are reliably of the highest standard.
“There’s a whole lot of science behind getting plant milks right for coffee and we take great pride in how our plant milks taste and perform in coffee. We have had great feedback from both baristas and coffee lovers about how delicious the range is – the positive word-of-mouth is really starting to pay off,” Steve says.
Until recently, The Alternative Dairy Co’s primary focus has been on introducing baristas to their milks and building relationships at street-level between café owners and the brand’s field team. A nationwide distributor network has also been established.
“We’re taking the time to get to know café owners, to really understand their business, their customers and their neighbourhood. Collaboration is a core value to our brand. We’re out there doing a lot of listening and we’re not afraid to do things differently if it means a better outcome for our customers,” Steve says.
To share its story with Australia’s 19 million coffee drinkers, The Alternative Dairy Co has unleashed a purpose-built motorcycle with sidecar that doubles as a mobile café to travel around the country. Piloted by Australian travel columnist Ben Groundwater, the mobile café is meeting alternative Australians living in less-travelled locations, diving into their lives over a freshly brewed oat milk latte.
The journey is being documented by iPhone and broadcast on the Alternative Dairy Co Instagram page – the brand’s primary social media platform. Free Alternative Dairy Co coffee days at selected cafés are also part of the consumer brand awareness push, encouraging trial of the oat and almond milks.
“The Alternative Dairy Co is playing in a hugely competitive marketplace, but the brand’s recent growth during what has been an incredibly tough time for the café and hospitality industry gives us confidence that it’s got the right mix of ingredients for long-term success,” Steve says.