Califia’s impressive brand and strategy has cemented them as a clear leader in the plant-based dairy … [+]
The name Califia originally comes from the Spanish legend of Queen Califia, who ruled the mythical island of California. In fact, Queen Califia is said to have been the inspiration of the golden state’s name. And while she may not be real, the company that put her name and face on their bottle certainly is, and they’re really starting to rule the plant-based dairy market.
Interestingly, Califia Farms began as a juice company, pressing ugly tangerines into refreshing thirst quenchers. They intended to make good use of blemished, perfectly-imperfect fruit that couldn’t be sold for fresh eating, thereby reducing food waste — a significant contributor to climate change.
Fast forward to today, Califia Farms has become the most recognizable brand in the plant-based dairy aisle. Fresh off its recent Series D funding round of $225 million, led by the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA), Califia has its sights set on global domination. And their game plan is simple: give consumers what they want.
Nowadays, consumers (particularly next gens) are looking for authentic brands that represent them. According to The Hartman Group, contemporary diets are personalized and all about balance, wellness and energy. Wellness and energy are shorthand for feeling lighter, better digestion, reducing inflammation and ultimately feeling good and being happy. The ability to curate experiences and products that demonstrate their individual relevance to consumers is key for greater loyalty.
Califia’s brand fits this description perfectly, as it seems to resonate with a broad range of cultures/sexes/etc (which was done intentionally by the founding team). As a result, Califia has become a friendly entry point for many consumers eager to explore their new “plant-curious” mentality.
This is proving to be a very important way of getting more people to eat healthier and more sustainably. In general, many consumers believe plant-based dairy to be “better” for them, they just need a reason to try it more often.
According to Califia, the average consumer of their products eats meat approximately 3x/week, and traditional dairy about 3x/day. So while a lot of attention has been given to alternative meat options, alternative dairy options signal an equally important opportunity to reduce our carbon footprint and disrupt the existing food system in a way that positively impacts the planet.
This is important for retailers to keep in mind. Brands like Califia can help drive sales across the plant-based category, effectively becoming a gateway product to the broader plant-based category. One way for retailers to help this along would be to reduce the amount of orange juice and regular dairy milk currently on shelves, and make space for plant-based stars like Califia. This would signal to next-gen consumers that they reflect their values and can help them manifest an increasing desire to express “self care.”
When it comes to sourcing Califia’s ingredients, they work primarily with one almond grower-processor that is led by a 3rd generation family operation. According to Califia, they use only the most technologically-progressive irrigation practices and manage their own beehives to assure that these important pollinators thrive.
Honeybees are critical to Califia’s supply chain (and many foods for that matter) — without bees, almond trees can’t grow almonds! Califia works with their growers to protect bees, and have chosen to work almost exclusively with an almond supplier that has their own in-house honeybee operation to protect and grow the bee population.
Little known fact: Almond farming is a key industry for bee health. The almond bloom is the first opportunity for bees to find forage every year, which provides them with the food they need to increase in population and continue on to pollinate crops across America. We can all help protect the bees by planting more forage.
More than 80% of the almonds Califia buys are grown and processed within a 20 mile radius of their bottling facility. In 2018, all of Califia’s Cold Brew Coffee will be sourced directly from farmer-partners in Central and South America, and from the Yirgacheffe region of Ethiopia.
According to Eli Steltenpohl, head of sustainability at Califia, a life cycle assessment of Califia’s products confirms their milks have a much lighter “foodprint” than dairy milk. Specifically,
- 40-90% less water (spread is almond to oat)
- 90+% less land
- 60-80% less C02e (spread is mostly packaging format)
Comparisons show that a switch from 48 ounces of US-produced dairy milk per week to Califia Almondmilk achieved annual savings of 150 pounds of CO2 and 1.7K gallons of water. Essentially, that’s a pound of carbon saved for every pint you drink. Maybe the famous “Got Milk” campaign should be re-positioned to “Which Milk You Got?”
Califia has soared to new heights under Greg Steltenpohl’s leadership
Califia’s goal is to transition to 100% renewable power by the end of 2020. To get there, they’re finding innovative ways to reduce energy usage while also boosting production of renewable energy. They’ve managed to cut the amount of energy needed to produce one bottle of Almondmilk by 23% between 2016 and 2017. Next year, they’ll be installing a massive solar array at their manufacturing plant to harness the power of the California sunshine.
In the past year alone, they have reduced the amount of water required to produce each bottle of Almondmilk by 16% through efficient production planning. They’re already in the process of removing 25% of the plastic in its bottles and caps (single serve rolled out over the summer and multi serve in Q1 2020) and have begun testing for a transition to RPET (recycled plastic). On top of all that, Califia is currently working to achieve Zero Waste Certification. Talk about a mission-driven company.
$225 Million Financing
Califia’s Series D financing is one of the largest private capital raises ever completed within the natural foods sector. In addition to QIA, the round was backed by Temasek ($231 billion investment company in Singapore), Claridge (Bronfman family), Green Monday Ventures, and a Latin America based family with big interests in coffee and consumer products. Barclays was the exclusive bank for the financing.
The new investor group will take a minority stake in Califia Farms, with representatives from QIA, Temasek, and Claridge joining the Board of Califia, alongside founder Greg Steltenpohl and existing investors Sun Pacific, Stripes and Ambrosia.
Califia has set its sights on expanding further into the international markets, to meet the needs of the plant-curious consumer around the globe. Apparently demand for plant-based milk is really growing fast in Asia, particularly for almonds.
This funding provides Califia with the long-term capital and global support it needs to continue its rapid expansion and disruption of the $1 trillion dairy and ready-to-drink coffee markets, and ultimately help them achieve their goal of ruling the plant-based dairy market.
“We’re building a space station, not a rocket ship,” Steltenpohl says with enthusiasm.
All hail the Queen!