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BATTLE TASTED: Does Miyoko’s Creamery’s recent successes mark the rise of non-dairy dominance?

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These battles will cover everything from nomenclature to subsidies to ag-gag laws that actually protect the incumbent industries and stifle free speech that aims to expose some of those harmful practices.

TYLER SILVY: She secured more than $50 million in funding to expand her plant-based dairy alternatives startup. She prevailed in a First Amendment case against state regulators, allowing her creamery to continue its dairy-centric marketing push. The dual wins for Miyoko’s Creamery owner Miyoko Schinner last month have raised the activist entrepreneur’s profile, and further cemented Schinner as a sort of North Bay poster child for the steady shift in consumer appetites for vegan and vegetarian options.

The shift has made finding vegetarian and vegan food in grocery stores easier, but has also left the traditional meat and dairy industries less than thrilled, setting the stage for an important battle for Americans’ hearts and stomachs. “Any time there is a shift in technology or industry, there will be a battle between the old way and the new,” said Schinner.

Sales and new products are up, say industry experts, because people want alternatives to animal products for health and environmental reason and the industry is offering a greater variety of non-meat choices, with flavors and textures often mimicking animal products. And it’s getting product placement in many cases right next to animal-based products, raising concerns for dairy groups…

Where California milk producers have lost 2% of their market share in the past eight years, vegan and vegetarian alternatives are soaring. Plant-based yogurt sales grew by 20% in 2020, almost seven times the rate of conventional yogurt; plant-based cheese grew 42%, almost twice the rate of conventional cheese; and plant-based eggs grew 168%, almost 10 times the rate of conventional eggs, according to the Plant Based Foods Association. The plant-based egg category grew more than 700% from 2018, 100 times the rate of conventional eggs.

“Our most recent data that covered the 2020 grocery year shows plant-based food sales were up another 27%. That has been the way it has been year-over-year for the last six or seven years with tremendous double digit growth,” said Michael Robbins, who handles policy for the association. “It’s outpacing all other sectors of the grocery store”…

As one food segment grows, it often means another is declining. That is what dairy farmers are worried about — losing even more market share. The number of dairy farmers is on the decline. According to the American Farm Bureau Federation, “Since 2003, the U.S. has lost more than half of its licensed dairy operations, now just shy of 32,000 dairy operations.”…

Scott Dicker, marketing analyst for the wellness-focused data company SPINS, believes consumers wanting more plant-based foods is having a ripple effect. “It is causing the meat and dairy industries to be more cognizant so they are claiming more sustainability by saying they are certified humane and organic,” he said… Although dairy industry officials are loathe to label the plant-based alternatives as genuine competition, they have spearheaded a push to effectively limit the opposition’s market share.

Robbins with the Plant Based Foods Association said the primary pushback comes from pig farmers and dairy ranchers. “Rather than try to compete on a level playing field, they are constantly trying to undermine the plant-based food industry,” he said. He pointed to the First Amendment struggles like what Miyoko’s Creamery went through. (Schinner is a founding board member of the Plant Based Foods Association). “It plays out in courts, in state legislatures, with Congress and the FDA. It is something we are very engaged in”…

When Schinner won her First Amendment case, using the Animal Defense League attorneys, it further proved to traditional dairy industry insiders that the vegan creamery’s business model is as much about taking down animal-based dairy as it was a fight for free speech… “She has been very outspoken against animal production,” Tesconi said. “She has been outwardly promoting a reduction or total termination of animal protein — that has really been her mantra. She has been very forthcoming about her belief that there shouldn’t be animals raised for agriculture”…

Schinner said she is ready for the next battle, believing those who raise and sell animal products for a living are on the attack. “The battle at the legislative level will become heated as subsidies for animal agriculture start to become challenged by not only activists, but lobbyists for the alt-protein industry as well as some legislators themselves. We are headed for some interesting times when we unravel unfair practices that prop-up certain industries while suffocating innovative new technologies,” Schinner said. “These battles will cover everything from nomenclature to subsidies to ag-gag laws that actually protect the incumbent industries and stifle free speech that aims to expose some of those harmful practices”. SOURCE…

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