Huge customer demand has led to Starbucks introducing almond milk into its US stores

Fun fact – in medieval times almond milk was used by the wealthy and made by families in the Mediterranean in celebration of the almond harvest. That luxury is now available in Starbucks across the USA, alongside other large corporations such as WalMart, Costco and Dunkin’ Donuts. Initially a few outlets in Northern California, the Pacific Northwest, New York, Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions will be offering the traditional milk substitute in their drinks, expected to expand to 4,600 stores nationwide by the end of the year.

Almond milk is coming to Starbucks across America in a bid to meet customer needs and raise revenues.

Almond milk is coming to Starbucks across America in a bid to meet customer needs and raise revenues.

The consumer demand for almond milk

The coffee giant is simply listening to consumer demand, having received almost 96,000 requests for the addition of almond milk since 2011 on the My Starbucks Idea page where customers and employees are able to make suggestions to the company. Of course, it is crucial for consumer-centric companies to conform to changing customer demands in order to drive long term growth and enable them to keep up with competition.

Additional rise in revenue

Starbucks have found a way to capitalise on this further. With $0.60 extra charge to use it as a substitute in drinks which vegans, almond milk lovers, or those who are lactose-intolerant will likely be willing to pay, this will add up and is expected to increase the ‘beverage spend per customer visit’, making it an investment for the business.

Starbucks have developed their almond milk in-house

Let’s look a little more at the product itself. Starbucks has actually developed its own Almondmilk, made with almond butter, which “was designed so that when steamed, it creates a rich foam for hot beverages and is delicious and creamy when served in cold beverages” according to a company spokesperson.

Still not sold? Maybe consider that 8 ounces of the drink contains 3 grams sugar compared to 12 to 13 grams of sugar in reduced-fat dairy milk.

Almond milk - America's new favourite milk alternative

Given the recent surge in almond milk popularity alongside drops in dairy sales, it isn’t surprising that Starbucks have given it a place on their menu. It was considered a fairly niche health food product until the early noughties, but things have changed and almond milk is now America’s preferred milk substitute with more than 250% growth in sales over the last 5 years. During this time the total milk market simultaneously fell by over 1 billion dollars. In 2011 sales went up by 79% and as of 2014 it made up 60% of plant-milk sales and approximately 5% of the total milk market. It is estimated that 49% of Americans now consume non-dairy milk, and dairy milk sales are expected to fall by a further 11% by 2020.

Almond milk has become the most popular milk alternative in America.

Almond milk has become the most popular milk alternative in America.

Why is almond milk so popular?

There are plenty of reasons for this. In part it is likely due to dietary restrictions of those who are lactose intolerant, which affects nearly a third of Americans according to the National institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Another reason could be the latest health and wellness trends, with surveys suggesting the most important features relevant to almond milk are that it is ‘all natural’ with ‘no artificial colours or flavours’ and ‘made from vegetables or fruits’. Of course there are also the ethical reasons – no cows are harmed and the environment will thank you. Despite some bad press against almond milk with concerns about the water consumption, when compared to dairy, this pales into insignificance. Consider Calfia almond milk – it requires 8 gallons per pound. A lot? Traditional dairy milk requires 90 gallons per pound. If you make almond milk at home you can expect to use 50 gallons, but that’s still just slightly more than half that required for a pound of dairy milk.

Starbucks' continues to aggressively corner the plant-based market

This isn’t the first time Starbucks has catered to the non-dairy consumers, either. They added soya milk to their range in 2014 and the very popular coconut milk last year. It also isn’t the first time they have made the news this summer with their dairy alternatives as they claimed some coverage when stores ran dry of coconut milk, for which there are 2 culprits. The Iced Coconut Milk Mocha Macchiato which launched 12th July and the vegan Pink Drink made with Strawberry Acai Refreshers and coconut milk. The latter became a sensation with over 100,000 Instagram posts thanks to its pretty pigment and was followed up with a purple, orange, green and blue edition. Safe to say, Starbucks seems hot on the heels of plant-based milk. You can get Almondmilk substituted in any handcrafted Starbucks beverage so, bar distance or nut allergies, be sure to try it out!