‘We’re not trying to copy milk’: Rude Health backs nutrition-focused strategy amid plant-based ‘shakedown’


Rude Health is not “anti-dairy”, nor does it seek to replicate conventional dairy with its plant-based alternatives. Rather, the London-based brand wants to provide an attractive stand-alone alternative to conventional dairies.

Plant-based ingredients can do much more than mimic milk, co-founder and brand director Camilla Barnard told FoodNavigator. “We don’t offer milk; we offer something that you can use in the same way as milk.

“But in terms of taste and nutritional profile, it’s completely different. And we celebrate it.”

Plant-based milk: a strategic and “very successful” move

Rude Health was founded by Barnard and then-husband Nick in 2005. The goal was, and still is, to make healthy eating a celebration, not a sacrifice, Barnard explained. “We wanted to encourage positive relationships with healthy food.”

Originally launched in muesli, Rude Health has since expanded its range of breakfast cereals, entered snacks and entered the plant-based milk alternatives category in a strategic move that has more than paid off.

According to the co-founder, who already used many of the same ingredients in Rude Health breakfast cereals, the shift was organic. “It seemed like a very clear next step. But we didn’t know it would happen the the thing that really made us. It was very successful.”

Rude Health takes a nutritional approach to NPD. Image credit: Rude Health

Rude Health, which first launched plant-based milks in 2013, is now “definitely” best known for these products. The range includes milk alternatives made from almonds, oats, brown rice, coconut, hazelnuts and tiger nuts to name a few.

“That was 10 years ago and it was the introduction into milk that really made the difference.”

Addressing race slowdown

For the vast majority of the 10 years Rude Health has been commercializing plant-based milk alternatives, the category has been “growing really nicely,” Barnard said. “But now growth has slowed.

In this way, similarities can be drawn between plant-based dairy products and plant-based meat.

The decline in plant-based sales has so far been most publicly focused on the plant-based meat sector. In recent months, it has been reported that US plant-based meat pioneer Beyond Meat’s sales have fallen by more than 30%, while other plant-based meat producers – including Meatless Farm and Plant & Bean – have fallen into administration.

The rapid growth of plant meat and the more recent struggles proved “fascinating” to Barnard. “They came out of the gates very quickly, with a lot of big players with expensive solutions aimed at mimicking meat. There has been a spike in initial interest… but repeat rates and new entrants just aren’t as much [industry] thought they would.”

The plant milk scene is different, the co-founder explained. First, plant-based milk alternatives have been around for much longer (soy milk is first mentioned in literature as early as the 14th century).Thursdaycentury).

Producers no longer have to “invent” anything new, Barnard continued. “That’s not what Rude Health is about. We’re not trying to imitate milk…Why ultra-process something and pretend it’s something else?

“It would be a shame to mimic milk because it has the potential to do so much more than that.”

However, this approach did not prevent a slowdown in sales of plant-based dairy products. And it’s not just Rude Health that has observed this change in the market. We’re told that plant-based dairy products are going through a “shock” that is “inevitable” after the growing season.

Examples include Nestlé’s plant-based milk brand Wunda, which recently withdrew from UK retail, and Coca-Cola-owned Innocent’s decision to end its range of milk alternatives in April this year.

Barnard believes Rude Health’s commitment to a clean label, or as clean a label as functional requirements allow, will carry the brand through the current slowdown in racing.

Balance function with clean label

Today, Rude Health sells most of its plant-based milk alternatives to retail, but the grocery market is “growing really fast.” Consumers care a lot more about the “milk” — whether dairy or plant-based — in their coffees than they used to, the co-founder suggested.


The London-based company aims to use the purest ingredients possible. Image credit: Rude Health

“It’s actually very similar to the Fever-Tree story,” she explained, referring to the beverage brand, which is known for drawing attention to the mixing element of an alcoholic beverage rather than the alcohol itself. Rude Health believes that consumers are no longer focused solely on coffee in lattes or flat whites. “If you’re having a latte, 90% of your latte is milk. So it really depends on what you add to the coffee,” Barnard explained.

In 2022, Rude Health is launching “barista” versions of its popular dairy-free products. The difference between its ‘barista’ and conventional ranges is that the former is designed to prevent hot drinks from splitting and has a better frothing function.

But the launch of barista versions has brought new challenges for the health-focused business. “Basically, we want to make products from ingredients you would use at home. This is really difficult if you want to make a milk alternative that does not separate with the sour coffee and foams continuously.

“The funny thing is that dairy products aren’t consistent either.” Depending on what the cows ate, you get a completely different amount of foam.”

In Rude Health’s regular line of plant-based milks, the goal is to use as few ingredients as possible that are labeled as “clean.” In a coconut milk alternative, for example, ingredients include water, rice, coconut milk, and sea salt.

In the barista version, as with its regular version, the goal was to create the desired functionality with the minimum amount of added ingredients. The result is a coconut barista offering made from water, coconut, sunflower oil, sea salt, natural coconut flavor and a natural stabilizer (gellan gum). The barista versions that contain these added ingredients use as little oil and stabilizer as possible, the co-founder explained.

“We want people to be in gross health and make sure we’re doing something worthwhile at every level.”

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