A Dairy Operation Reborn: From Cows to Cashews (and Other Nuts) - Modern Farmer

A Dairy Operation Reborn: From Cows to Cashews (and Other Nuts)

A beloved New York dairy company is changing its ways.

Henry Schwartz, the owner of Elmhurst Dairy, went from cows to cashews...and almonds, and hazelnuts, and walnuts.
Photography Elmhurst Milked

For more than 90 years, Elmhurst Dairy, based in Queens, was a New York mainstay. But when the business began to struggle due to the same factors that have buffeted the industry in general—decreased consumer demand being one biggie—82-year-old owner Henry Schwartz made the hard decision to close the plant’s doors last October.

But that wasn’t the end of Elmhurst Dairy. The company relaunched this year, but don’t bother looking for cow’s milk in any of their products – Elmhurst Dairy has shifted into the nut milk business with the launch of Elmhurst Milked, which includes almond, cashew, hazelnut, and walnut milks (and whose tagline is “All of the nuts, none of the nonsense”).

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While some struggling dairies have either shuttered or gone organic in hopes of cashing in on the growing natural products sector, Schwartz began looking into the burgeoning nut milk industry and decided that was the right direction for his company. Milk consumption has plummeted in the U.S. since the 1970s. Per capita, the amount of milk Americans drink a day has dropped by nearly half, from approximately 1 cup to 0.6 cups, according to the USDA. Meanwhile, sales of non-dairy milk alternatives, especially almond milk, have been on the rise. According to a 2016 Nielsen report, almond milk sales in the U.S. saw a 250 percent growth over a five-year period starting in 2011. Non-dairy milk products had nearly $2 billion in sales in 2015, Forbes reports.

“I believe the future of plant-based milks is very bright and the industry will continue to see fantastic growth, and I believe consumers are turning towards plant-based products for a variety of health, environmental and ethical reasons,” Schwartz told Modern Farmer. “I also hope that an increasing number of consumers will begin to turn to plant-based milks like Elmhurst Milked simply because they taste great and because they are just as versatile.”

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The company sources its almonds, hazelnuts, and walnuts from farmers in California and Oregon, and its cashews from Brazil. Elmhurst is manufacturing their nut milks in a converted yogurt facility in Elma, NY, near Buffalo. The company’s offices remain in Queens. Schwartz says the biggest investments were in the equipment required to produce the nut milks and in their team of food scientists and quality assurance professionals.

Their nut milks are currently available at Publix supermarkets in the Southeast and at Gelson’s and Bristol Farms on the West Coast. The company plans to roll out their products across the country in the coming months and also sell them online.

Schwartz isn’t just trying to cash in on a trend, but has himself gone from drinking milk to non-dairy alternatives and believes that his plant-based milks are as nutritious and flavorful as the highest quality dairy milk. “While I will always be a dairyman at heart, I have been drinking plant-based milks for several years,” he says.

The new line of nut milks from the company that had been in the dairy business for nearly 100 years.

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