Single-dose 100ml Tetra Brik Aseptic cartons of Onalat ultra-heat treated (UHT) Whole Donkey Milk, produced by Eurolactis donkeys in Southern Italy, began rolling off lines in Modena, Northern Italy in December 2014.
Using direct steam injection technology, where the milk is brought into contact with steam at 140C for a few seconds, Eurolactis is able to ensure that "around 95%" of the nutritional benefits of raw donkey milk are left intact.
As a result, each 100ml carton contains 0.5g of fat, 1.6g of protein, and 6.7g of carbohydrate.
Donkey milk is also naturally hypoallergenic, and high in vitamin C and omega-3.
Speaking with DairyReporter.com, Pierluigi Orunesu, founder and head of Eurolactis, explained, however, that Onalat UHT Whole Donkey Milk should be viewed as a supplement, not a beverage.
"You don't drink donkey milk as you would do bovine milk," said Orunesu.
"It can be used a substitute for children that are allergic to cow's milk," he said. "And seniors may use to it maybe 10 days in every two months to boost their immune systems."
In Europe, where donkey milk has "more of an infant scope", Eurolactis has secured retail listings with Casino in France, Esselunga in Italy, and SicilConad in Sicily, and is holding talks with two Swiss retailers.
Individual 100ml cartons will sell for between €2.80 (US$3.15) and €3.80 (US$4.25), which, while expensive, is 35% less comparatively than Onalat donkey milk powder, he said.
"From the beginning, our will was to bring this most valuable milk to the market at the best price."
It is also "exploring" opportunities in Asia, where donkey milk is considered a "beauty from within" product, and the US, where consumers "are very curious."
Orunesu even joked that he's expecting a call from the US Democratic Party.
"Consumers in the UK are also demanding donkey milk," he continued. "But we have no partner in the UK at the moment."
Sports drinks potential?
Looking ahead, Orunesu speculated on the possibility of launching Onalat UHT Whole Donkey Milk in larger packaging formats.
"The half-litre carton may come later on," he said. "But it's too early to talk about that."
Potential also exists to expand into new categories.
“...for sports drinks because donkey milk is low in fat and rich in carbohydrates," Orunesu added.
Eurolactis founder Orunesu was granted a private audience with Pope Francis in December in the grounds of the Vatican, where he presented His Holiness with two young donkeys - called Noah and Thea - and two baskets of donkey milk powder for the maternity unit of the Vatican paediatric hospital.
During the meet, the Bishop of Rome revealed to Orunesu that donkey had played a significant role in his Argentinian upbringing.
"Pope Francis told me today - in front of media - that his mother regularly gave him donkey's milk when she could not provide enough breast milk or later on when he was a child," Orunesu told DairyReporter.com.
Orunesu acknowledged this his meeting with Pope Francis was a great endorsement for Eurolactis.
Keep an eye out for our review of Onalat UHT whole donkey milk next week.
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