Califia Farms Wades Into Organic With New Nut Milk Line; Revamps Protein Products

Natural beverage maker Califia Farms has for the first time entered the organic drink market with the launch of Homestyle Nutmilks, a line of USDA Certified Organic almond, cashew and coconut nut milks. The drinks will debut this week at Natural Products Expo West 2017, where Califia will also introduce a restaging of its protein beverages, two additions to its Almondmilk line and a new multi-serve offering for its Pure Black cold brew coffee.

The company’s foray into organic beverages “starts with the consumer,” said Califia Farms founder and CEO Greg Steltenpohl.

“There’s been a lot of requests for it,” he told BevNET. “But we’re also a brand that’s positioned around being affordable. That holds true for our channel mix. As we look across being a strong supplier to Target, Wegmans and Kroger as well as coming out with products that do well for Whole Foods and Sprouts and natural foods stores.”

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Packaged in Califia’s distinctive carafe-style 750 mL bottles, the organic nut milks come in three varieties — almond, cashew and coconut — and are made with four ingredients: organic nuts, water, oat fiber and a dash of sea salt. The ingredients are processed differently than the company’s existing nut milks and have a more nut-forward taste and slightly different textural profile. They will also separate, because there are no gums or binders. As with all Califia Farms products, they are vegan, dairy-free, GMO-free, soy-free, carrageenan-free, and gluten-free.

Califia will focus distribution of the organic nutmilks in the natural channel, although Steltenpohl declined to name which retailers would be carrying the line at launch. The products will have a suggested retail price of $4.79 and the company expects them to be merchandised on the shelf above or adjacent to its flagship multi-serve nutmilks. Steltenpohl anticipates “a very minor amount of cannibalization,” because some of its more affluent consumers will likely trade up.

“But I think there’s been a lot of people who’d like to buy Califia that haven’t because they’re organic buyers, period,” he said. “We heard they weren’t satisfied.”

Steltenpohl said that while total conversion of Califia’s nut milks to an organic formulation would be an “emotional and conceptual alignment with our core values,” it would, at this point, “be taking all the air out of that market,” force an increase in prices and prevent smaller players from getting into the market.

“The current supply chain isn’t set up to handle that demand and it would affect the price of our entire brand,” he said. “That would move us out of the aspirational, but obtainable [price point], and move us into just purely aspirational. We wanted to test where the rubber meets the road as far as the willingness of the consumer to pay a little bit more without jeopardizing the current franchise that we have.”

Meanwhile, Califia Farms has reformulated and extended its line of protein-infused almond milks, which now include two additional grams of plant-based protein and are infused with Peruvian maca root powder. The drinks contain eight grams of protein sourced from rice and peas and one gram of of maca root powder per serving; the company also reduced the sugar content. The line includes Maca-‘Nilla, flavored with vanilla and cardamom, Choc-A-Maca, Maca-Spresso, a blend of Califia’s almond milk and Direct Trade-sourced cold brew coffee.

Steltenpohl said that Califia is “always looking for some nexus between lower sugar and higher functionality with a nut milk at the core” and described maca root as “a great adaptogen” that supports hormonal balance and provides a clean source of energy.

“We just felt that the protein category is ready for more evolution,” he said. “Deeper nutritional density and bioavailability and functionality are all areas that we think the nut milk base for these products makes them super differentiated and very interesting to the consumer.”

PastedGraphic (4)On the coffee front, Califia has extended its Pure Black line with two new multi-serve products. Packaged in 48 oz. carafes, the coffees are brewed with a blend of Brazilian coffee beans, as opposed to the Central American blend used for its single-serve glass bottled line. The coffee is available in two varieties: unsweetened and lightly sweetened. Steltenpohl said the products were designed for the conventional channel and targeting consumers seeking coffee-forward offerings for home consumption.

“We think the conventional players have not done the greatest job of bringing that kind of craft, flavor-forward part of specialty coffee that everybody appreciates at retail when they buy their cup of coffee,” he said. “No one’s been able to provide that in a multi-serve yet. We’re super excited about being competitive and disruptive in that back dairy case.”

The coffees will be sampled at Expo West and are expected to launch on the market in April.

Califia will also exhibit two new multi-serve nut-based milks. Toasted Oats ‘N Almond Almondmilk is an almond milk product blended with toasted oats and no added sugar. The company promotes it as a fiber-rich, creamy offering similar to cereal milk. Califia’s new Go Coconuts product is its first 100 percent coconut milk beverage in a multi-serve package. The product is made with coconut milk, coconut meat and coconut water and contains no added sugar. Steltenpohl praised the drink as a natural source of MCT and a formulation that “nobody has come close to.”

“We find it extremely drinkable, plus hydrating, so you can have a coconut milk that’s truly refreshing and very mild in its coconut flavor,” he said. “We think it’s super accessible.”