Is carbonated milk the next sparkling water?

September 26, 2017

Just as sales spike for soda water like La Croix, sparkling milk is hitting the market, but it could be nothing more than a milk dud, experts say

Got sparkling milk?

That’s the million dollar question one dairy company launching a fizzy fruit beverage made from cow’s milk is asking.

The UK’s biggest milk producer Arla, owned by more than 12,000 farmers, has confirmed a “sparkling fruit milk” is slated to hit supermarkets in England, Singapore and the UAE before a global launch, the Telegraph reports.

The milky product was created to boost sales of the white stuff in a desperate time, as milk sales turn sour. In the US, dairy milk sales are expected to decline until 2020 to $15.9 billion, an 11% drop since 2015, according to market research from Mintel.

As dairy producers become more thirsty for business, innovation seems to be crucial. Arla’s carbonated milk product comes at an interesting time when bubbly beverages, particularly sparkling waters and seltzers, have seen major sales spikes. The sparkling water category has more than doubled its growth from $961 million in 2013 to 1.8 billion in 2017, according to data from Nielsen. And Costco favorite soda water La Croix, which has been around for decades, saw net sales rise from $646 million in 2015 to $827 million for the company’s most recent fiscal year thanks to a savvy, millennial driven marketing campaign.

Still, it’s unclear if the world wants a fizzy dairy product. Lower milk consumption comes as consumers turn their taste buds over to nutty alternatives like almond milk. The current total sales of non-dairy milk in the US are around $2 billion, and Mintel predicts the category will reach up to $3 billion in the next three years. Industry experts, however, predict the new sparkling white stuff will be nothing more than a milk dud.

“They’re trying to create another market segment because everything’s been done to fruit flavored water, vitamin water and seltzer,” says Jason Kaplan, CEO of JK Consulting, a New York based hospitality firm. “ If consumers don’t find the idea appealing it’s a very hard sell.”

A slew of companies have already tried to break into the bubbly milk market, but have not succeeded. In 2010, the Coca-Cola product Vio, a carbonated flavored milk in flavors like “Very Berry” and “Peach Mango,” made Time magazine’s “50 Worst Inventions” list. More recently, in 2014, British soft drink producer Britvic launched “Tango Strange Soda” in the UK, but stopped production after less than a year when sales fell flat.

The average American consumes 18 gallons of milk a year, according to the U.S. department of Agriculture. That’s nothing compared to the 1970s when people were tossing back 30 gallons annually, typically saturated in cereal, paired with dinner or in a milkshake. By the mid 20th century, Americans were told to drink two to three glasses of milk per day.

“It turned out to be a perfect food nutritionally and politically,” Melanie DuPuis, a professor at Pace University and author of “Nature’s Perfect Food: How Milk Became America’s Drink,” says. “It was viewed as a great way to correct bad diets — if you didn’t get enough vitamins or calcium, you could correct your diet simply by drinking milk. Milk was one of these products that solved a nutritionist’s problem and an economist’s. Children would grow strong and farmers would make money to survive. It was a dietary bargain.”

Arla’s sparkling fruit milk product isn’t a total shot in the dark. The egg cream, made from milk, carbonated water and flavored syrup became popular during the late 19th century and started flooding soda fountains as the quintessential New York sip during the 1960s and through the 80s. And the White Russian cocktail, made with vodka, coffee liqueur and milk, was a hit in the 1950s. And who could forget the famous “Got Milk” ads made famous in the 90s?

“It sounds like a new play on an egg cream,” says DuPuis. “Do I see people dying for carbonated milk products? No,” DuPuis admits. “But people are drinking tons of seltzer, Why not have a milk flavored seltzer?”

By Jeanette Settembre


JK Consulting is a New York-based international restaurant & hospitality consulting firm. We specialize in restaurant & bar openings along with turnaround programs. Our expertise is in developing highly effective operational systems, management procedures, hospitality services, staff training, beverage, menu and mystery shopping programs.
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