Give peas a chance

Ripple pea milk
Credit: photo courtesy of Ripple Foods

Among all the popular non-dairy milks (soy, almond, rice, coconut, oat—to name a few), one lesser known alternative milk has recently begun to stand out, and it’s probably not what you’re expecting. It’s yellow pea milk, and it could very well be the future of the non-dairy milk industry.

Ripple makes dairy-free yellow pea milk, half-and-half, and soon, Greek yogurt. The company is supported by over $30 million from Google’s investing arm and other venture capitalists within Silicon Valley. Its founders think yellow peas are the key to success in alternative dairy. Like most legumes, yellow peas are hypoallergenic (compared to soy and nuts) cholesterol-free, low in fat and sugar, and high in fiber. Ripple even rivals dairy milk in its protein content: Yellow pea milk has 8 grams per serving, the same as dairy and soy milk. Nutritional merits aside, yellow pea products are environmentally friendly.

The dairy industry is known for being an environmental scourge, from cow flatulence to power used to generate product. Neil Renninger, one of the co-founders of Ripple along with Adam Lowry, explained to Bloomberg that dairy is responsible for 5 percent of the world’s carbon emissions. “The impact is massive,” Renninger said. “More than beef, more than chicken, dairy is actually the largest contributor to emissions by volume.” He says the challenge of creating an alternative scratched his “sustainability itch.”

Ripple’s website states that their manufacturing method uses 98.5 percent less water than what's required to produce dairy milk, and 96 percent less than almond milk. Considering it’s also packaged in 100 percent post-consumer recycled material, swapping a comparable amount of dairy milk for a 48-ounce bottle of yellow pea milk represents staggering savings of environmental resources. Renninger and Lowry’s research shows that each bottle of Ripple represents saving 3.5 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions and 925 gallons of water when compared to dairy milk.

Although Ripple is currently more expensive than other types of dairy-free milk as well as regular milk, Renninger and Lowry hope that soon they’ll nail down a way to make yellow pea milk the most affordable. Noting that many people who buy non-dairy milk are not lactose-intolerant—“most consumers do it to be greener,” said Renninger, though nutritional benefits are also a likely contributor—the founders feel that the demand for these products will soon make enough of an impact on the industry that alternative milks will no longer be niche, and the prices will come down.