Distribution Roundup: MALK Goes National With Whole Foods

Malk Moves National With Whole Foods

Cold-pressed nut milk brand MALK Organics announced it has expanded its distribution with Whole Foods Market, with two SKUs from the Houston-based company set to enter over 400 new store locations.

MALK’s unsweetened and vanilla almond milk flavors will be available in 28 oz. multi-serve bottles nationwide and in seven new regions, including the Pacific Northwest, Southern Pacific, Midwest, Mid-Atlantic, South, Florida and North Atlantic. Those flavors, along with other MALK SKUs, are currently sold in the Southwest, Northeast, Northern California and Rocky Mountain regions of Whole Foods.

MALK is also available at retailers such as Kroger, Target, H-E-B and Sprouts.

The brand is one of a crop of emerging independents operating in the fast-growing plant-based dairy space. According to research group Mintel, non-dairy milk sales have increased 61 percent since 2012, with almond-based beverages taking a 64 percent share of the category.

Speaking with BevNET, MALK Organics CEO August Vega called the brand’s relationship with Whole Foods as “a little special,” noting that the natural retailer was an early partner for the company when it launched four years ago.

“We got our start at Whole Foods as a local producer,” Vega said. “The consumer related to the product really well, and we have a good relationship with many of the key players at Whole Foods.”

While new chocolate and strawberry flavors, first shared at Expo West in March, are slated to launch early next year, Vega hinted that the brand may take a broader approach to pursuing innovation. She said the company is exploring opportunities to replicate its Malk Bev Bar, a concept bar inside Houston-based food incubation space Snap Kitchen which serves both coffee and non-traditional cafe drinks, such as a beet juice latte. In looking outside the box, Vega noted that there’s “only so far you can go with alt-dairy” in terms of innovation.

”We want to be a staple of people’s day-to-day lives,” she said. “Whether its a culinary experience, beverage experience, using with cereal… We want to be the staple brand, not necessarily the most innovative.”

SOM Sleep Lands KeHE and UNFI

California-based sleep drink brand Som Sleep will be resting easier after announcing distribution partnerships with United Natural Foods Inc. (UNFI) and KeHE Distributors.

“We are thrilled that our smart science and high quality ingredients make Som Sleep a perfect fit for UNFI as they stay on the cutting edge of new ideas that drive the industry forward,” said Som Sleep co-founder and CEO John Shegerian in a press release. In a separate announcement on August 7, he said his brand was “the perfect fit for KeHE.”

The product, born from Shegarian’s own battles with insomnia, has enjoyed a fast start since launching in January. A national launch with GNC followed in June for both its original and zero-sugar SKUs in 8.1 oz. cans, along with further expansion in Texas, New Mexico and in California with natural retail chain Lassens.

SOM’s KeHE deal marks the second innovative functional beverage the distributor has picked up recently; hydrogen-infused sparkling water maker HyVIDA announced a distribution agreement with KeHE on August 17.

A2 Launches at Walmart Stores in 5 States

While plant-based milks may be the rage at Whole Foods, Australian brand a2 Milk Company has plans to bring its innovative spin on traditional dairy to Walmart shoppers.

Walmart will now offer a2 products at its stores in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Florida, Texas, Maryland and the District of Columbia, according to a press release issued today.

The brand, which launched in the U.S. in 2015, offers a variety of dairy milks made with reduced levels of A1 protein, which it claims makes it more comfortable to digest than traditional dairy milk.

“Achieving distribution with such a powerful and respected retailer like Walmart further validates the a2 Milk® brand proposition in the US and marks a critical point in our company’s drive to bring consumers back to dairy by providing our products to the roughly 75 million Americans who report dairy intolerance,” said Blake Waltrip, U.S. CEO of the a2 Milk Company, in a release.

Protein2o Makes Southeast Publix Push

Chicago-based protein water brand Protein2o has picked up new distribution at Publix stores in seven states across the Southeast.

Starting this month, three SKUs — Peach-Mango, Dragonfruit-Blackberry and Kawaiola Coconut — will be available at Publix locations in Florida, Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina, Tennessee, North Carolina and Virginia. In a press release, the company framed the move as part of a major push into the South, in which it currently has a presence at retailers including Safeway-Albertsons’s, HyVee and others.