Who doesn’t like a little pea in their milk?

Yes, I make puns like that because I’m nine.

But seriously, by some accounts, pea protein is the next big thing, and could help make an even bigger dent in the dairy industry. Here’s how one company’s doing it:

While dairy milk sales are dropping–one report suggests that total sales will fall 11% between 2015 and 2020–nondairy milk is predicted to grow from a $2 billion market in the U.S. now to nearly $3 billion in 2020.

In the past, consumers often tended to choose nondairy milks because regular milk wasn’t an option for them–they were vegan, or allergic to dairy. But the leading reasons now are nutrition and taste concerns; sustainability is also a driver. Milk has a large carbon footprint because of the production of grain for cows, methane from cow burps and manure, and the energy used to produce and distribute the final product. In a life-cycle analysis, Ripple calculated that it produces roughly a third of the emissions of dairy for a glass of milk because the main ingredient, peas, takes far fewer resources to produce–and peas don’t burp. Almond and soy milk have similarly low carbon footprints (though because almond milk has far less protein, if you compare the carbon footprint on the basis of protein, its footprint is significantly worse than dairy). Almond milk also has a much larger water footprint….

If consumers are choosing nondairy milk just to be more responsible (rather than because they can’t digest lactic acid, for example), Ripple believes that taste is critical. “Those motivations are more wants and desires, so if those aren’t met in the products they’re using, they’ll just switch back to milk,” says Lowry.

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