Plant-based entrepreneurs like Miyoko Schinner (owner of successful vegan cheese and butter company Miyoko’s Kitchen) are enjoying the recent surge in popularity of vegan products. In the year ending May 25, plant-based milk retail sales totaled a whopping $1.8 billion while vegan cheese sales soared to $117 million!
Schinner began her business in 2014 as an e-commerce platform, but after receiving $50,000 in orders one weekend, she knew she needed to scale up. Today, butter and cheese lovers can find her products in 12,000 stores across the United States.
With the success of vegan businesses like Miyoko’s Kitchen, the dairy industry is worried. Milk sales are going through a decades-long decline. In Wisconsin, low milk prices are leading to bankruptcies, and dairy farmers are leaving the industry at a rate of three a day. Wisconsin is America’s largest producer of dairy butter, and the industry there is not happy with the new plant-based competition.
The dairy industry, including lobbying groups like the National Milk Producers Federation, are looking for technicalities to stop the spread of vegan milk and cheese products. Even though consumers and investors are turning to options that are friendlier to the environment and animals, the dairy industry claims that vegan companies’ use of the words “milk” and “butter” is helping them “fool” customers.
In an effort to protect the dairy industry, U.S. senators Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin and Jim Risch of Idaho are pushing for the Dairy Pride Act, which would “require that non-dairy products made from nuts, seeds, plants, and algae no longer be confusingly labeled with dairy terms like milk, yogurt, and cheese.”
Wisconsin has also been legislating, ordering supermarkets to remove dairy-free products marked “butter” from their shelves.
While Big Dairy fights a losing battle, some companies have embraced change. After Dean Foods suffered a 91 percent drop in net profits, the dairy brand invested for a minority stake in flax-based vegan brand Good Karma Foods.
Danone’s recent acquisition of Silk and So Delicious umbrella company WhiteWave Foods is another notable sign of the shifting market. And in 2017, Elmhurst Dairy, one of the oldest and largest dairy processors in the United States, switched from 100 percent cow’s milk to 100 percent plant-based milk.
Times are changing! Join the growing number of people enjoying plant-based alternatives to dairy by ordering your FREE Vegetarian Starter Guide today!