June 7, 2023
From Vegconomist

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Despite their prevalence in retail, plant-based milk remains outside the norm in many institutional settings, including many colleges and universities. Recognizing a major lack of dairy-free milk options in higher ed, US-based Uproot has launched unique plantmilk dispensers designed to address this need. 

“Our plan is to make plant-based milk the default choice in college cafeterias”

Founded by Kevin Eve and Jacob Conway, Uproot states it is the first multi-variety plantmilk dispenser created specifically for food service. The modern countertop dispensers serve a combination of oatmilk, soymilk and chocolate peamilk, and the machines are made to integrate seamlessly into dining operations. 

Co-founder Jacob Conway says the company started out making hand-crafted plantmilks in a shared kitchen in Providence, Rhode Island, and began distributing their product to local universities. 

College student with plant-based milk

“We were inspired to pursue colleges and universities because of our personal experience,” Conway tells vegconomist. “Kevin grew up with a milk allergy and I gave up milk in college. We had this shared experience of never having good quality plant-based milk in our dining halls. Many brands were driving innovation in retail, but no one was delivering bulk solutions for food service.

“Colleges and universities already use a bulk dispenser for milk, so we figured why not do the same for plant-based milk? To this day, college cafeteria customers tell us they have been waiting for a solution like Uproot.”

Proprietary recipes

Conway states the Uproot dispenser program began just one year ago, and it can now be found in 21 schools, including Northwestern University, UCLA, USC, Brown University, Georgetown University, and the University of Maryland.

Instead of sourcing from an outside supplier, Uproot reveals it makes all of its own milks using original recipes. “We developed our own oatmilk, soymilk and chocolate peamilk and we have a great co-manufacturer who handles production and packaging,” explains Conway. “Kevin formulated the first Uproot milks in his apartment using samples from ingredient suppliers and a blender. We made improvements to those original recipes and that is the milk we serve today. We are always on the lookout for the next great plant-based milk or ingredient or way to improve our milks.”

Uproot in colleges next to dairy milk

Student feedback

Just a year in, Uproot’s innovation has been met with delighted enthusiasm from students and faculty alike, and the company reports strong sales performance at schools like Brown University, where Uproot’s milk made up 13.3% of the school’s total milk purchasing.

Another Uproot customer, the University of San Diego, also reports highly positive results: “Everyone is loving the plantmilks,” comments USD Purchasing and Receiving Manager Britt Castro. “Students have given us only positive feedback! We even have reduced our regular milk ordering because the students have been going for Uproot instead (specifically the chocolate peamilk.)”

Conway adds, “The student feedback to our dispenser program has been very positive. We’ve surveyed 201 students in the past year and 85% said that Uproot is better or much better than the plant-based milk previously offered in their dining hall.”

Uproot plantmilk cartons for cafeterias

Expanding to hospitals

Looking ahead, Uproot is accelerating its growth and plans to have 100 active dispensers in operation by September 2023. In addition to higher ed, the company is also focused on expanding its presence into hospitals – in March, Uproot added its first-ever hospital customer: UCLA Ronald Reagan Medical Center in Los Angeles. 

Uproot also offers shelf-stable, grab-and-go milk cartons. More future innovations include strawberry oatmilk, vegan soft serve and dispensers in coffee shops. For now, Uproot will continue on its mission to bring healthy, sustainable plantmilk to as many colleges and universities as possible. 

As Conway states, “Our plan is to make plant-based milk the default choice in college cafeterias, not just an alternative.”

Source: Vegconomist.com