We come in peas: Vly develops plant-based milk

As the popularity of plant-based milk increases across the globe, we take a closer look at the pea protein alternative from Incubator alumni startup Vly Foods.

In the last decade, there has been a seismic shift in the popularity of plant-based milk. 75% of the world’s adult population is lactose intolerant. Plant-based drinks are therefore a great substitute, but the shift is not just down to allergies.

People are choosing alternatives to conventional dairy products for animal-welfare reasons, to reduce their environmental impact, for the nutritional value, and simply because they like the taste.

Half of all American and European customers reportedly now use plant-based milk, instead of or in addition to cow’s milk. In Asian Pacific and Latin American regions that figure jumps to around two thirds. It’s actually the number-one selling product type in the plant-based sector. In the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, oat milk sales have jumped by 300%, which is mainly a result of it being a shelf-stable product.

If you’re already an avid plant milk fan, you’ll know there are some great options available including rice, coconut, oat, and hemp, but there is also a fresh contender nudging its way onto the field.

Founders of plant-based milk company Vly Foods, Nicolas Hartmann, Niklas Katter, and Moritz Braunwarth

We come in peas

Welcome, the humble pea. This legume packs a protein punch. It is one of the best plant-based sources of this nutrient that you can eat (or drink). In fact, pea-based protein powders have become extremely popular with people looking to boost their protein intake. Many alternative meat products, including the world-famous Beyond Burger, contain peas as an ingredient.

Now, pea protein is working its way into the dairy sector. Berlin-based startup Vly Foods has created a 100% plant-based, sustainable milk alternative using yellow split peas. Nicolas Hartmann, Niklas Katter, and Moritz Braunwarth founded Vly together in 2018. The trio went on to join our Incubator that same year in order to develop their product and build their business.

“To provide the same amount of protein as cow’s milk, Vly requires 13 times less water, five times less acreage, and generates a total of 15 times less CO2 compared with the production of conventional dairy milk,” says the team. “Our diet is one of the most important factors influencing climate change. Peas not only have an excellent carbon footprint, but they also bind nitrogen to the soil. In this way, they actively improve the quality of arable land and reduce emissions of nitrous oxide, an even more harmful climate killer than CO2.”

Vly milk is made using yellow split peas as a base ingredient

Vlying high 

As well as its positive effect on the environment, the unassuming pea also has its fair share of health benefits. Peas are rich in lysine, an essential amino acid that the human body cannot produce. Lysine is important for normal growth and muscle development and helps transport fats across cells to be converted into energy.

Pea protein also has a positive effect on blood sugar levels, supports muscle building, and helps to regulate appetite. Products developed with peas as a base ingredient are also a safer alternative for people suffering from allergies. Vly milk, for example, contains no lactose, no gluten, and no soya.

Since graduating from the ProVeg Incubator in 2019, Vly has gone on to finalise its recipe, officially launch the company, and successfully release its products for sale online and in retailers across Germany.

Where do we go from here?  

In 2018, a study by researchers at the University of Oxford found that producing one glass of cow’s milk results in nearly three times as much greenhouse gas emissions as any plant-based alternative. So whether you’re a fan of oat milk, or you’re ready to jump on the split-pea train, you’re already contributing to a healthier planet.

This is not the end of the story, however. Scientists and startups are already working on producing lab-grown versions of the proteins in cow’s milk. This would allow the production of replica dairy products without the need for any animals.

Additionally, the global non-dairy milk market is expected to be worth an estimated $38 billion dollars by 2024. In such a lucrative and fast-moving market, we’re likely to see plenty of exciting new innovations appearing in the future.

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