Coca-Cola’s fairlife brand has dominated the ultra filtered milk space for years, a dairy category that’s seen rapid growth in the face of competition from plant-based alternatives. It has led to other high-protein, low-sugar milk launches, with the latest from Organic Valley.
Organic Valley has been a leading organic dairy brand in the US for nearly 30 years, organized as the country’s largest cooperative of organic farmers. They produce milk, creamers, yogurt, butter, cheese, cream cheese and eggs.
Filtering in value
In addition to its existing whole, reduced fat, low fat, skim, flavored, omega-3, grassmilk and lactose-free varieties of milk, Organic Valley has introduced a new line of filtered milks to meet what it says is consumer demand for healthier dairy.
Meenakshi Trehan, VP of brand marketing and innovation at Organic Valley, told DairyReporter, “We see this as a more value-added milk, it’s ultra. It’s not linked to the process, it’s about the high quality milk. I think as much as consumers want to know the process, they actually care more about what the benefits are.”
The filtration process leaves behind a concentrated protein in the milk, giving it 50% more protein than the average milk. It also strips out the sugar, and the Organic Valley varieties will be lactose-free. The line launches first with a Whole Milk, 2%, 2% Chocolate and Skim.
Organic Valley felt there was a whitespace in the market for an organic filtered milk that is available nationwide. They are made without pesticides or artificial growth hormones and packaged in 56oz cartons.
Organic Valley conducted internal research last year, and found that “for moms across the country who identify as the primary grocery buyer in the household, knowing that a product was produced without toxic pesticides or artificial growth hormones is a top purchase motivator in the dairy aisle. The same study showed that for chocolate milk buyers in the same group, higher protein and lower sugar also registered as strong purchase motivators.”
Trehan said that the chocolate flavor was a challenge because it resonates well with moms, but the sugar content was a problem. Organic Valley uses a natural sweetener in the milk rather than an artificial one common in competitor versions.
Last month, fairlife and the dairy industry at large was rocked by an animal abuse scandal. Employees at Fair Oaks Farms, a supplier of milk to fairlife, were found to have severely abused and mistreated the dairy cows.
The widely circulated undercover videos shocked consumers, leading to brand boycotts and protests and many retailers pulling fairlife off their shelves. Executives at Fair Oaks, fairlife and Coca-Cola responded to the backlash with new promises of animal safety and higher production standards.
“Affirming our commitment to making sure that animals on the farm live good and stress free lives has always been a part of our proposition,” Trehan said.
“That goes with all our products, not just Ultra. As we saw the fairlife news break, it was disturbing. But it didn’t change the way we thought about our product because [animal welfare] was already a part of our DNA.”
Being organic requires a certain amount of certification, Trehan explained, and the coop has to hold farmers to a higher standard than other big dairy brands. She knows that today’s consumers are more concerned with transparency in all food and beverage categories.
“They really want the animals to be treated well because they believe that if the animals are treated well and are stress-free, then the food that they are consuming will be better. I think consumers want to make that connection, and it’s super powerful to them,” Trehan said.
Following this launch, Organic Valley plans to look into extending its filtered milk into other dairy products, like yogurt or creamers. “Consumers want more from milk, they want milk to work harder for them,” she said.