Greg Steltenpohl knows how to create a beverage empire. He's done it before. This time he wants to disrupt the dairy case — and the food system.
Steltenpohl co-founded Odwalla in 1980 and built it into a successful juice company before selling to Coca-Cola in 2001. Now he's back with his latest venture, Califia Farms.
The brand started making juices but in seven years has expanded to almond milks, non-dairy creamers and cold brew coffees. Out of its 76 total products, 28 are coffee drinks.The category as a whole is growing, and Califia is trying to capture the plant-based corner.
Almond milk still represents a sliver of the nearly $16 billion milk category. But its market share is growing, as more people eat and drink less dairy or drop it altogether for health and sustainability reasons.
"We don't like to be dogmatic about it," said Steltenpohl, co-founder and CEO of Califia Farms. "We want to make it easy for people to go plant-based and dairy-free with better packaging, more enticing flavors and the exploratory aspect of it."
Steltenpohl wants to infuse creativity into the dairy case that he criticizes as only being differentiated only by things like skim, whole and chocolate. Some of Califia's flavors include cinnamon horchata, chocolate coconut and even holiday nog.
The packaging could lure the casual consumer who notices Califia's bottles are shaped differently than traditional milk cartons or jugs. Their necks are skinny and their bottoms curve out. Their labels could entice the more health-conscious consumer with buzzwords like soy free, dairy free, gluten free and carrageenan free.
Steltenpohl argues that nut milks naturally present more opportunity for innovation and experimentation than their dairy peers.