Promise of flax ‘milk’ may boost crop’s prospects

Dragging flax out from its tiny corners of the grocery store and into the main cases and shelves would probably help move more of the crop to consumers.

There are signs that could begin to happen, especially if a major American dairy producer begins pushing flax “milk” production and sales.

“Seeing a food processor interested in using more flax is a great thing for the industry and for flax growers,” said Wayne Thompson, Saskatchewan Flax Development Commission executive director, about news that the biggest U.S. dairy milk producer is considering boosting flax milk production.

“It’s still a struggle for consumers, even the ones that are aware of flax, to find it in the grocery store.”

Bloomberg News is reporting that Dean Foods chief executive officer Ralph Scozzafava is considering boosting his company’s stake in Good Karma Foods, which makes flax milk and other flax-based alternatives to dairy milk products.

“It’s a really, really cool brand and it’s growing. It grew pretty dramatically last year,” he told the news agency.

That’s the opposite situation of most U.S. dairy producers, who have seen weakening demand for years. Many have been adding non-dairy products to try to shore up their bottom lines and address declining sales growth.

Dean itself produces many soy-based products.

However, flax has not generally been part of the mainstream milk mix, leaving most of that grocery cabinet space to soy, almond, coconut and other milk surrogates.

The milk case is a high visibility part of the grocery store, which most people stop by, making it a different venue for where most flax products are kept.

Some stores put flax into the organic or natural foods areas, health sections or cooking ingredient areas.

Flax has long had good buzz about its perceived health benefits, received a Canadian health claim in 2014 and is a favourite in the health food community.

Many health foods contain flax, its oil is easy to find in health food shops and its meal is often used in baked products. However, all the good vibes have not led to booming demand for flax, which used to be a major western Canadian crop.

However, its inclusion in mainstream foods like milk substitutes might make its healthy reputation pay off in terms of more demand.

“The whole world is becoming more aware of health and what foods can fit in with that,” said Thompson.

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