Origin builds premium a2 Guernsey milk brand: ‘People tell us it’s what milk used to taste like’
The brainchild of Cleveland-based Adrian Bota, the Origin brand – launched in early 2016 – sources 100% certified a2 milk from Guernsey cows that produce milk containing only the a2 beta casein protein (most milk from the far more ubiquitous Holstein breed of cow also contains a1 beta casein, which a2 milk fans believe may cause digestive discomfort in some people).
But Origin does not make any hard claims about a2 milk on pack, and instead focuses on the fact that its Guernsey milk is locally sourced, tastes incredible, and has a distinct nutritional profile, Bota told FoodNavigator-USA.
“It’s the best taste, the best nutrition, with more fat [c.5% milk fat], protein [c.12% more], calcium [c.15% more], and vitamins A and D than regular milk, and it’s rich and creamy. Oh, and if you have digestive discomfort when you drink regular milk you might want to try it for that reason, but we have a lot more going for us that just that.”
A network of local farmers and processors
It’s still early days, but the plan is to build a network of farms and milk processors around the country to supply and process 100% certified a2 milk from Guernsey cows into Origin branded dairy products, which are already gaining a loyal following in Ohio, and are now expanding into other markets including New York City, Philadelphia, and Washington D.C. in chains including MOM’s Organic Market and The West Side Market, as well as high-end coffee shops and some schools.
Bota told FoodNavigator-USA: “Right now there are only around 9,000 Guernsey milking cows in the country vs something like ten million Holstein cows, and Guernsey cows only produce about 3-4 gallons of milk per cow per day whereas Holsteins produce 8-18 gallons, but we expect the numbers to increase as more farmers breed them.
“Conventional milk sales are going down the drain and a lot of dairy farmers are really struggling. We are offering to buy Guernsey milk at a significant price premium. The products sell at around a 15-25% premium over organic milk in stores, so we’re anything from $5.49 on the low end in some stores in Ohio to $6.99 on the high end in Manhattan for half a gallon.”
Asked about the branding, he said: “We didn’t invent A2 Guernsey milk, it’s something we want to bring back, to make it more widely available.
“Initially, all cow's milk contained only the A2 protein. But over time, because of natural changes and human intervention, milk’s genetic makeup changed. The difference appeared in the amino acids that make up the beta-casein protein chain and nearly all of our milk became A1.
“So in a way, we’re harkening back to the way milk used to be. For me, I’m originally from Romania and when I first tasted Guernsey milk here it reminded me of milk like it was back home, really creamy and rich in flavor.”
Free-grazing and grass pastured
Asked about the branding, he said: “We want to connect with the consumer in a kind of vintage way with a modern twist. Our #1 consumers are 30-something, 40-something Moms who have grown up with the local, natural and organic food movement and care about high quality local food for themselves and their families.
“But our #2 consumers are people over 50 or 60 that remember what milk used to taste like. When we demo this product in stores, people say I just love this milk and it takes me back.”