Maacha Le Blanc raised $5 million for her freeze-dried milk, Milli Mylk. Milli Mylk is a freeze-dried, plant-based milk that is developed by food scientists and Michelin chefs,` uses 100% sustainably sourced and organic ingredients that have been harvested, ‘mylked’, and then freeze-dried at their freshest point, locking in all the plant goodness without additives.
Milli Mylk was born from Le Blanc’s attempts to make homemade plant-based milk for her son Jack, who had a severe dairy intolerance. Traditional milk has long been a dietary staple, but today’s consumers have switched to alternative milk because of intolerances, environmental reasons, and taste. Consumers can either make plant-based milk themselves which can be time-consuming and messy or buy unhealthy store-bought cartons loaded with preservatives, fillers, and oils. “Milli was inspired by a desire to have a name that personifies optimism, kindness, trust, and felt harmonious with milk. In a brainstorming session, a colleague suggested the name Milli and we instantly loved it. We think of Milli as your “friend” in the fridge,” Le Blanc explained the meaning of the name.
“With Milli, we aim to create a product that enhances people’s lives and makes the world better – a conscious company with exceptional products. Milli was born from a real need. Our son Jack was born in 2013 with severe intolerance to dairy. We needed milk that tasted good enough for him actually to want to drink and that we trusted enough to feed our family. When I researched plant-based milk options, I was shocked to learn that they are loaded with oils, gums, fillers, and often only contain 2% of the ingredient they claimed to be made of (e.g. almond, coconut, oat, etc). I didn’t want to give that to my child. As a new, first-time mom, I ambitiously decided to make my own homemade milk,” Le Blanc explained. “ I am glad I did because I learned two things, first, fresh, homemade milk tastes incredible! It’s rich, creamy, and nutritious. But the second thing I learned is making your own milk at home is a messy, time-consuming chore. That’s why you don’t see it widely adopted today. Unfortunately, I went back to carton milk because as a busy, working mom, making my own milk from scratch wasn’t feasible. I really wanted the quality of fresh, homemade milk, but without having to compromise on convenience.
Fast forward to 2020, she and her husband had been watching the explosive growth of plant-based milk options. There were tons of new companies entering the market, but they seemed like derivatives of each other. They were still watery, bland concoctions loaded with oils, gums, and stuff she didn’t want in her milk. Not having seen any innovation in freshness and quality she and her husband, Caleb Ferguson, couldn’t shake the feeling of wanting to innovate a way to have fresh, delicious and nutritious plant-based milk at home, super conveniently. “We built Milli Mylk to be the first and only freeze-dried plant-based mylk that allows people to have fresh, craveable, earth-friendly milk that is ready in a couple of shakes (no appliance needed),” she explained.
Milli Mylk is delivered straight to the consumers door every month as the brand sees themselves as the modern milk (hu)man. Scientists have long known about the benefits of freeze-drying, a technique that’s been used for decades to naturally preserve freshness for use in medicines and to feed NASA astronauts in space. Freeze-dried foods won’t spoil, they’re light and transportable and are packed with nutritional benefits. With freeze drying, no chemicals or additives are used in the process. After years of research with the NC Food Innovation Lab, Milli’s team found the gentlest freeze-drying process to yield creamy, barista-grade milk. When freeze-dried, the milk’s ingredients retain over 99% of their nutritional value, and all of the flavor, goodness, and peak freshness. The milk is then gently milled into a fine ground mix that, with just water and a shake, is quickly and easily transformed into a creamy, fresh milk.
“We craft our mylks from 100% organic ingredients that are responsibly and ethically sourced. We make mixed botanical milk blends that are as nutritious as they are delicious. For example, our coconut mylk is a blend of fresh coconut meat (not from canned coconut cream like most products), almonds, cashews, and tiger nuts. Each ingredient serves a purpose and the total sum contributes to nutrition, creaminess, texture, and performance. You won’t need to Google any of our ingredients—Milli is packed with only the good stuff. Just plants, no nasties,” Leblanc shared.
Leblanc also wanted to ensure the enture Milli Mylk process is eco-frienldy, “From our responsibly sourced ingredients to our backyard-compostable packaging, energy-efficient freeze-drying, and reusable glass bottles, every decision we made is with the planet in mind. Additionally, we decided to offset our carbon footprint and will be carbon neutral in the first year of operation. Working alongside Seaborne, a sustainability audit group, (www.seaborne.nyc) we completed an LCA (Life cycle Assessment), and found that compared to refrigerated alternative milks distributed in the grocery store, we emit 3X less carbon given our sustainable production and shipping practices.”
Milli Mylk will launch with two flavors, Almond and Coconut, that sold out three times. They are expected to introduce Oat and Chata, similar to a horchata or chai later this year. As Le Blanc had over a decade of experience in private equity she knew investors would be excited to join her innovative approach to milk. She and her husband raised $5 million in seed funding which is no small feat as only 93 Black female founders have raised $1 million as of 2020.
When asked about why investors were eager to join the freeze-dried milk movement Le Blanc shared that they find it to be sitting at the intersection of food innovation and technology, “They are excited to invest because milli sits at a unique intersection of food, innovation and technology. It is this innovation that allows us to deliver the best and easiest way to have fresh, tasty foods conveniently. Most importantly, upon tasting the mylk, investors commented that they have never tasted anything like it,” she explained. “They also have an understanding that consumers are demanding and prioritizing quality, fresh, high integrity products. Consumers today are smart, health-focused, digitally native, and seek brands that align with their values while conveniently fitting into their busy lives. Our investors see the enormous potential of milli mylk as we tick many boxes: unique, delicious, nutritious, convenient and planet-friendly.”
Beyond introducing new “mylk” flavors Le Blanc sees Milli as an innovation company that provides delicious, nutritious, fresh, trustworthy foods-conveniently. Milli will expand into more coffee, functional beverages and smoothies throughout next year.