Case study: Making plant-based milk in your own home

Nadina and Michael, above, are the founders of Milky Plant and produce plant-based milk at home.  A few years ago, Nadina was diagnosed with high cholesterol and wanted to make healthy changes to her diet but quickly found that everyday plant-based milks weren’t as natural or healthy as they claimed to be. Here, they tell SME about their business journey.

Can you start by telling us what your company is called and what does it do?

Milky Plant is an appliance that makes plant-based milk at home. It is unique to anything on the market as the owners say others on the market are extra fine blenders and don’t deliver the same taste, texture and results. No other machine collects the pulp which can be used for baking or composting and Milky Plant also has a self clean functionality.

What was the inspiration behind it?

When Nadina was diagnosed with high cholesterol in her early 20s she wanted to switch to a plant-based diet -including buying plant milk – but realised that this contained a lot of additives such as emulsifiers and UPF ingredients. During lockdown she was getting frustrated with the amount of Tetra Pak plant milk containers they were getting through and didn’t enjoy the time consuming and messy process of making her own plant milk by straining nuts and seeds with cheese cloth. She and Michael decided there was a better way to make healthier plant milk and this is how Milky Plant was created.

What challenges have you faced along the way and how did you overcome them?

The couple started their business with just £500 in lockdown as they weren’t cash rich. They sought no outside investment either as they wanted to keep control of the business and their product design and patents. This meant that they have grown more slowly than maybe they could have done but believe that was best for them in order to be able to make mistakes and learn from them as they have no background in product development. The initial £500 was spent on a 3D design of their idea for Milky Plant and social media advertising to test their idea. Enough people bought an appliance to ensure they could fund the product manufacturing and they were told either they could have a refund or wait for the machine to be made. This crowdfunding was the only way they could have got their business off the ground.

Another key challenge was having an international team based in Germany, Nigeria and Moldova and this meant that creating the product took longer due to the shipping times between the various countries to test the different components. At one point they had a whole shipment of product held up for several months due to the issues in lockdown and that resulted in a huge number of refunds. The couple work well together as they say they take the emotion out of any business decisions and just have the best interest of the business at heart.

What advice would you give any people who are thinking about starting their own business?

Just go for it! Don’t let lack of funds get in the way if you know you have an amazing idea. Most businesses fail due to the product not being unique enough so work through the points of difference before attempting to launch. Milky Plant was part of the Amazon Accelerator scheme for 2022/ 23 which was a great way to meet other start ups and have support from an online retailer which provided fantastic advice and support. They advise having a look at what support there is for start ups as there are plenty of schemes which offer advice and infrastructure without losing control of your business.

Where do you hope the business will be in, say, five or ten years?

We are launching a new version of the machine later this year which will have new functionality and more colour ways. This launch means that we aim to increase turnover from £2M in our third year to £10M. They couple also have ambitions for retailers to stock their appliance and would love to achieve that in the next five years. In 10 years time they hope that their appliance will be a feature of most kitchens in the same way a microwave or coffee machine is.