Royal Hawaiian branching out with mac nut milk

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Watch out, dairy cows: There’s a new competitor in the milk arena.

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Watch out, dairy cows: There’s a new competitor in the milk arena.

Royal Hawaiian Orchards announced Tuesday that it would begin selling macadamia nut milk in stores nationwide this summer.

Shipments will go out to retailers in the next month, Royal Hawaiian President and CEO Scott Wallace said.

The launch has been planned for a few years. Four types of milk — original and vanilla flavors, each in a sweetened and unsweetened variety — will be on shelves.

“Alternative milks in general are growing very, very rapidly,” Wallace said.

The almond milk market alone has grown by about 50 percent annually for the past few years, he said, and the alternative milk market in general is projected to reach $5 billion in sales throughout the next five years.

Compared with established markets such as almond, soy and rice milk, macadamia nut milk is still in its infancy as far as creating a fan base is concerned.

At least two Australian companies sell macadamia nut milk in the United States, but so far no other milks feature Hawaii nuts front and center.

All of Royal Hawaiian Orchards’ macadamia nuts come from the Big Island, where the company has 5,000 acres of farmland. Macadamia nuts are one of the top-grossing agricultural products in Hawaii.

The launch of Royal Hawaiian’s macadamia nut milk is part of a larger effort to “try to present macs in a more healthful way than has traditionally been done,” Wallace said. Consumers tend to associate the nuts with dessert products such as cookies, cakes and pies, he said.

Last October, Royal Hawaiian submitted a petition to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration seeking to establish a health claim for mac nuts — namely, that eating half an ounce daily would lower risk of heart disease. Wallace said that claim was based on a three-year consumer research process.

Macadamia nuts, like almonds, are low in cholesterol and high in monounsaturated fats (the same type found in avocados).

The macadamia nut milks are gluten-free and have 50 percent more calcium than dairy milks, according to a Royal Hawaiian press release. They also are a good source of Vitamin E.

One 8-ounce serving has between 35 and 60 calories, depending on the variety.

It took a year and a half to develop each milk recipe.

“It’s kind of a buttery taste, a creamy texture,” Wallace said. The vanilla flavor “almost tastes like a milkshake.”

He said one of the first Hawaii stores to request the new product was Longs Drugs, and that “over time it’ll probably be in most of the retailers.”

As with most products, Hawaii consumers will pay a higher price for their mac nut milk than mainland consumers.

“We don’t know what margin retailers will take, but our best guess of the retail (price) is anywhere from the low to the high 4s,” Wallace said. Expect to see cartons for sale at prices between $4.29 and $4.99. On the mainland, prices will be closer to $3.59.

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“It’s a nice different flavor choice for people who were already drinking other milk alternatives,” Wallace said. “And it’s Hawaiian, so it’s of course got that going for it.”

Email Ivy Ashe at iashe@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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