Good Karma launches plant-based sour cream and dips, defends ‘plant milk’ labels: ‘This whole nutritional equivalency argument doesn’t even hold up within the dairy industry'
The products – which will debut at Expo West and hit shelves in the spring (MSRP $3.99-4.49/16oz tub) - are made using a traditional culturing process, “making them the only plant-based option with live and active cultures,” Radi told FoodNavigator-USA.
While the plant-based sour cream has a lengthy ingredients list compared to dairy sour cream (which has one ingredient: cultured cream), this did not deter category shoppers, who above all were looking for great taste, he said.
“The reality is consumers say they want very clean label short ingredients lists, but taste is king. You see this in the milk category with products with one or two or three ingredients and quite frankly, they are not the best-selling products. The best-selling brands are the ones that taste the best.
“Consumers have been asking us for delicious plant-based sour cream and dips for years and it’s been something we’ve been working on for a while. But equal billing to the plant-based story is the great taste and texture, and then on top of that the sour cream has half the fat and calories [of dairy sour cream].”
‘We just don’t think any brand in the category has done it right yet’
He added: “We also saw an opportunity to launch a product that was better than what was already on the market – and it’s a big market. The dairy-based sour cream and dips category is over a billion dollars in size with very few plant-based options [for example, Tofutti and Follow Your Heart both make soy-based dairy-free sour cream].
“We just don’t think any brand in the category has done it right yet. You can get some that are watery and some that have the consistency of spackling paste.”
We’re seeing big untapped opportunities in foodservice
Overall, the Good Karma portfolio is performing well, said Radi. “We’re seeing tremendous growth on the brand which is generally performing at two to three times the average category growth at retail, and we’re also seeing big untapped opportunities in foodservice.
“I do think there’s an opportunity for retailers to dedicate more shelf space to the categories in some of those adjacencies to milk such as butter, cheese and yogurt, which have 1-2% of the category, whereas milk as 8-12%.”
Dean Foods ownership
Boulder, CO-based Good Karma began life as a private label formulator for plant-based products and shifted its focus to its branded products in 2014.
It is now majority owned by Dean Foods, which has given it access to new customers in retail and foodservice channels and helped drive down procurement costs in areas such as packaging, but ensured the management team has retained its autonomy and Boulder-based HQ, said Radi.
The plant-based ‘milk’ debate: 'Hogwash'
Asked about the debate over terms such as ‘flaxmilk’ and ‘almondmilk,’ Radi said the contention that consumers were confused by such terms was “hogwash." The dairy lobby’s second line of attack – that consumers are being duped into thinking that plant milks match dairy milk nutritionally – has also been rejected by the courts, he argued.
Good Karma’s +Protein products contain similar levels of protein, calcium, vitamin A, and vitamin D to dairy milk, plus short chain omega-3s from flax, and less sugar, saturated fat and cholesterol, he said.
But the notion that consumers want or should expect all plant-based products to precisely match dairy on a nutritional basis, is flawed, he said"
“Nutritionally, consumers don’t even expect all dairy products to be the same. Look at yogurts. There’s Greek, light, low fat, high-fat, high protein, less protein. In dairy milk, you’ve got 1%, 2%, 4%; some have even been fractionated and put back together with more protein and no lactose [eg. Fairlife].
“The same is true of plant-based products. If you’re looking for fewer calories, you might have our regular unsweetened product. If you’re looking for more protein, you might choose the +Protein product. Consumers don’t shop for one monolithic benefit.
“This whole nutritional equivalency argument doesn’t even hold up within their own [dairy] industry."
Plant-based brands are using the same terminology (e.g. milk, butter, cheese) as dairy companies – with clear qualifiers (dairy-free) and compound names (eg.flaxmilk) because their products serve the same purposes and are used in the same way as their dairy counterparts (in hot drinks, smoothies, on cereal etc), he said.
“We shouldn’t step backwards 40 years just to protect an influential industry segment,” added Radi, who is a board member of the Plant Based Foods Association.
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