It’s no secret that cow’s milk dairy is on a downward slope. According to research firm Mintel, sales dropped seven percent in 2015 and are expected to drop another 11 percent through 2020. That’s a drastic decline, and dairy producers have been feeling the pinch.
Among those producers was Elmhurst Dairy in Queens, New York. The old-school operation churned out cow’s milk for 90 years. But in keeping with changing consumer demand, current CEO Henry Schwartz (son and nephew of the plant’s original founders) decided to start over — this time, with nut milks.
Enter Elmhurst Milked, a new line of vegan, all-natural nut milks in Milked Almond, Milked Cashew, Milked Hazelnut and Milked Walnut varieties. The products have recently hit stores (including Publix in Florida and Georgia), so we spoke to Schwartz about his decision and what the future looks like for milk that doesn’t come from a cow.
Paste: What led to the decision to switch from producing cow’s milk to nut milk?
Henry Schwartz: I decided to switch Elmhurst’s focus to plant-based beverages because of ongoing losses in the dairy industry and because of my faith in the future of plant-based foods. I believe the plant-based beverage industry has enormous potential both in fueling the growth of sustainably-minded food and beverage brands like Elmhurst Milked and in continuing to innovate to deliver high-quality nutrition to consumers.
Paste: Was there any initial resistance to the decision — internally or externally?
HS: There was no internal resistance. Closing Elmhurst Dairy was bittersweet for a number of reasons, of course, but it opened the door for us to start something new and launch Elmhurst Milked. Externally, there has been a small amount of push back from within the dairy industry; however, we’ve been very clear that we still support their efforts. It was simply time for Elmhurst to go in a new direction.
Paste: How has your business model changed with the switch to nut milks?
HS: In fact, it did not change very much. We still source our ingredients from trusted farmers, package our nut milks in safe, sustainable aseptic packaging, and are assiduous in our quality control processes. At the end of the day, whether dealing in dairy or nut milk, our goal is to deliver a safe, nutritious, affordable product to consumers.
Photo courtesy of Elmhurst Dairy
Paste: How did you come across the “cold-milling” process for making the milks?
HS: I was introduced to Elmhurst’s patented cold-milling process, which we call “milking,” by its inventor, Dr. Cheryl Mitchell. Dr. Mitchell is a lifelong innovator in the vegan food space and has devoted her career to finding a way to extract nutrition from nuts, grains and seeds in a manner precise enough to deliver a product that is delicious, versatile and texturally appealing yet also maintains the plant’s inherent nutritional value.
Paste: How did you choose almonds, walnuts, cashews and hazelnuts?
HS: We chose almonds and cashews because we wanted to feature two flavors that are easily recognized by the average nut milk consumer, and we chose hazelnut and walnut because we wanted to include two more unique flavors that are not typically found in the marketplace. We wanted to be sure that all four of our initial nut milk flavors featured sustainably sourced nuts from farmers we trust, and of course that each nut we chose produced a uniquely flavored, delicious non-dairy beverage that consumers would love.
Paste: What do you think the future looks like for the dairy milk versus the nut milk industry?
HS: I can no longer comment on the future of the dairy industry, but I believe the future of the nutm ilk industry looks very bright. I’m continually impressed by the industry’s seemingly limitless possibilities to innovate and develop new, more delicious, more nutritious and more sustainable products.
Photo by cappi thompson, CC BY 2.0
Hannah Sentenac is a freelance writer and journalist who covers veg food, drink, pop culture, travel, and animal advocacy issues. She’s written for Live Happy magazine, Foxnews.com, MindBodyGreen.com, and numerous other publications and websites. Hannah is also the Editor-in-Chief of LatestVeganNews.com, a publication dedicated to positive, original news from the vegan and plant-based world.