Milk alternatives have been in development for years. For example, soy milk has been used as a dairy substitute and has been on the supermarket shelves for decades. The latest addition to the list of milk substitutes include almond milk and rice milk. However, a new bold idea may provide the biggest splash: milk from yellow peas – it is tastier, has better texture, and has high protein content.
They sampled different food proteins, until they came upon yellow peas. It is inexpensive, and the product does not have a strong flavor. The resulting milk substitute tastes a little like concentrated powdered milk, with a creamy texture.
The product of a startup called Ripple, yellow pea milk is being noticed fast by the dairy industry. The company has had $44 million funding from Google, Khosla Ventures, and other Silicon Valley venture capitalists. It launched in 2016, and since then has generated more than $20 million in revenue from 2.5 million 48-ounce bottles of milk from yellow peas.
One advantage of the product is that it is inexpensive to grow yellow peas, and at the same time the product has a clean texture and taste. This is a step up, as many of the other alternatives have their own sets of disadvantages. For example, many would describe soy-based milk as having texture akin to chalk. In addition, soy is widely known for being genetically modified organism (GMO) food, meaning it has been artificially modified in a laboratory.
Another example is almond milk, which unfortunately does not have a high enough protein content, having only one-eighth the protein of dairy milk. It also requires a large volume of water to produce. Another popular option, rice milk, while pleasant tasting also suffers from low protein content.
Ripple, created by Adam Lowry and Neil Renninger, they wish to address some of the issues of these milk substitutes. With current estimates, land and irrigation water will be scarce commodities by 2050. This does not mean that the resources will no longer exist, only that the demand will far outstrip the supply by that time. Creating a milk substitute now would enable the production to scale up and result in lower prices in due time.
Lowry and Renninger are no newbies when it comes to startups. Lowry is a co-founder of Method, an eco-friendly cleaning line. Method was later sold to Belgian company Ecover in 2012 for $100 million. Renninger was formerly with Amyris Biotechnologies which was started with a grant from the Gates Foundation. It uses tech to create renewables. In addition, Renninger is an entrepreneur-in-residence in well-known venture capital firm, Khosla Ventures.
The partners set out with a bold idea when they first started: to find a dairy alternative which would have a small carbon footprint. They noted that up to 20% of the world’s carbon emissions come from food production, of which 25% of that comes from dairy products. Latching onto milk products, the pair sought out a milk substitute which was pleasant tasting without being chalky in texture.
They noted that technology is helping create plant-based products as substitutes to traditional food choices. This has resulted in products like the Impossible Burger. The success in the venture to create a meatless meat product has motivated the company to look for alternatives for diary. They used technology to create what they term as really good dairy food alternative.
The pair started to experiment with protein extracted from plants other than soy, almonds and rice. They sampled different food proteins, until they came upon yellow peas. It is inexpensive, and the product does not have a strong flavor. The resulting milk substitute tastes a little like concentrated powdered milk, with a creamy texture.
The possibilities for yellow pea milk in various cuisines and beverages are endless!