Over the past few years, consumer demand for plant-based milk products has taken a big portion in the market as lactose intolerant, vegan, and environmentally-conscious consumers seek alternatives to conventional dairy products. These consumers still love to enjoy their specialty coffees, but convenient, vending-machine-based options for plant-based versions aren’t available. What if we could offer plant-based milk in every coffee vending machine, making the transition to sustainable consumption as easy as the click of a button?

Meet Natulatte, our 2022 TFF Finalist from the Netherlands. Natulatte has developed several flavors of plant-based powdered milk specifically for use in coffee vending machines. Their product delivers a perfectly creamy texture instantly, allowing consumers all over the world to enjoy plant-based coffees wherever they are, and making widespread adoption of sustainable alternative proteins seamless and convenient.

The problem

Coffee lovers often grab their drinks on-the-go from vending machines. These machines are fast, reliable, and cost-effective, and they are available in more places than where you can find a traditional coffee shop or barista. The problem is that while it’s common to find a wide-variety of plant-based milks in coffee houses, when it comes to vending machines, these options aren’t on offer.

This is because plant-based milks don’t have the right texture to perform well in vending machines machines. Often, they will stick or create lumps in the dispensers, and fixing the cleaning systems creates additional expenses for the companies.

Getting more plant-based coffee options into vending machines is a big opportunity – for both business and the planet. According to a coffee vending machines market report from Astute Analytica, the coffee vending machines market is anticipated to grow at a CAGR of ~5% until 2027. In recent years, the market has become increasingly influenced by digital innovation, the COVID-19 pandemic, and a greater emphasis on sustainable and healthy behaviors.

Flexitarianism is now mainstream, and the number of vegans around the world keeps on growing. In Europe alone, the number of vegans has doubled in just 4 years from 1.3 million in 2016 to 2.6 million in 2020Plant-based meat and dairy alternatives already account for nearly 8% of the so-called global “protein foods” market. And according to the Bloomberg Intelligence Report, plant-based food sales are expected to increase fivefold by 2030, driven mainly by Generation Z and Millennials. Data from NPD Group shows that these generations will be almost entirely responsible for the growth of dairy alternatives. They are also the largest consumer groups in the world. 

Moreover, about 65% of the adult human population suffers from lactose intolerance, and environmentally-conscious consumers are seeking more products in the category because of the positive impacts they make on climate change.

Combining the growing market for plant-based milk, the high demand of coffee consumers, and the huge amount of coffee vending machines, is Natulatte’s blue ocean.

The solution

Natulatte’s powdered milks are currently oats-based and perform well in all leading commercial coffee vending machines.

Among the many plant-based milk alternatives, Natulatte’s decision to work with oat milk doesn’t come by chance. The production of oat milk requires significantly less water and land use than dairy milk. A 120 ml cappuccino made with Natulatte saves more than 66 liters of water and uses 10 times less land than what is used to produce 1 glass of cow milk. On top of this, oat milk has a great taste. It is the number 1 alternative milk chosen in coffee houses because of its soft flavor and frothing functionality.

Natulatte’s powdered oat milk is already running in hundreds of vending machines and the feedback from consumers is  excellent. They claim that oat milk tastes better than cow milk since you can appreciate the real coffee flavor even more. This motivates the industry to include Natulatte in the machines.

Increasing the consumption of non-dairy milk and adopting alternative proteins in general is one of the most important opportunities we have to reduce the environmental impacts of agriculture and one of the most successful ways to fight climate change. Natulatte’s easy-to-adopt solution nudges end-consumers to make better choices, and makes these benefits for health and the environment more accessible and scalable.

The business

Natulatte’s solution might sound simple, but that’s what makes it so powerful. Just think about all of the places where you have seen a coffee vending machine. Making sustainability so accessible (and delicious) is an incredible force for change – and Natulatte is poised to scale their solution quickly. 

Natulatte has enough capacity to supply the growing demand from existing (and new) customers based in the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Austria, Spain and Finland, as well as expansion into new markets like Latin America. They are forming partnerships with major vending machine companies, commercial coffee companies and even leaders in the hospitality industry. 

But it doesn’t stop just with powdered milk. Natulatte has also developed chocolate, chai tea and vanilla products – offering a wide range of the most common beverages with plant-based alternatives. They are also able to offer all of their mixes in various forms of packaging – such as bags and sachets- expanding their reach beyond vending machines, giving them a total addressable market of every single household in the world. 

Natulatte is a pioneering company and as of today, there aren’t many competitors in the vending machine category. What sets the company ahead is not just the quality of their product and their deep know-how, but also the “Natulatte vibes and feeling” that the brand naturally represents. Natulatte’s slogan says “a cloud of joy in your coffee” – and that is exactly what you get. 

When you see Natulatte’s coffee corner you don’t see boring, industrial-style coffee vending machines. Instead, you see colors, flowers and a vibrant energy – which permeates into your coffee, bringing you a enriching experience no matter where you are: at the office in the middle of a busy day, at the hospital waiting for your appointment, at the gas station while fixing your car, or at the airport when you are getting ready to travel. With Natulatte, the coffee break will always be your special moment of joy and recharge with this 100% feel-good drink. 

With the unstoppable growth of veganism, and healthier and more sustainable choices by consumers, investing in solutions like Natulatte is now essential. The global plant-based milk market revenue totalled US$ 11 billion in 2020. Only in Europe vegan meat and dairy categories are expected to reach €7.5 billion by 2025, and the global market is expected to reach US$ 32 billion by the end of 2031.

The future is bright for Natulatte. 

The backstory

Astrid van Santen is Natulatte’s Founder & CEO. She has been always in touch with nature and thoughtful about the environment, and realized that the way she was consuming her food was not sustainable – which is why she decided to adopt a vegan diet.

But the decisive moment in her entrepreneurial journey was 5 years ago while she was working as a salesperson. When she went for her coffee breaks, she noticed two things: firstly, that the coffee corner was drab and uninspiring, but also that there were no plant-based milk alternatives for her beloved coffee. That’s when she realized this was her mission and this was something she could do. She thought to herself: “Life is short and I want to leave the world knowing that I made an impact”

Driven by her deep passion for nature, animals and the planet, she set to work to develop her product. She started her journey with a crowdfunding campaign – the experience exceeded her expectations as she was unexpectedly funded with €60.000. By the end of 2020, within 1 year of R&D and prototyping, finally, she launched her own perfect recipe for a creamy oat milk powder to put in the machine. 

For Astrid the coffee break has been always a special moment. It is the moment to get together with family and friends and enjoy life around a warm drink. And that is what Astrid wants for  everyone! to enjoy the coffee break with a tasty, sustainable, and energizing cup of Natulatte! ☕️

What’s next

Natulatte recently closed an important deal with an agent who is reselling Natulatte to different customers in Spain and Portugal. Now that Natulatte has also developed their next milestone – a plant-based milk powder in sticks – the team is ready to expand beyond their current channels and hotel chains to enter the retail market.

Natulatte is now taking part in the TFF Academy, our personalized start-up acceleration program, where they are developing their business model, their go-to-market and fundraising strategies, and of course their storytelling. We are also introducing them to relevant industry contacts and helping them build the product roadmap for the next few years.

If you want to find out more about Natulatte, partner with them, or meet the team, please reach out to Luisa at luisa@thoughtforfood.org. We can’t wait to connect you!