Let me start by saying that I am lactose intolerant. And as long as I'm admitting that, I might as well also admit that I have Celiac Disease--an allergy to wheat. Combine those two food allergies and, well, let's just say when I go out to eat with friends, they jokingly tell the waiter, "And he'll have a cup of water and a warm bowl of air."

Finding things to eat, and even drink, is a challenge (to say the least).

As a result, I have learned an exorbitant amount about food over the years. In fact, one of the most surprising things I have come to realize, especially about American culture, is how little people actually know about the things they put into their body. I have gone to the grocery store with friends, picked items up off the shelf and started reading the ingredients, and have them say, "Oh, I never read what's in it. I just buy the brand."

...Meanwhile, what they usually buy is full of sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and weird additives I can't pronounce.

Dairy, especially, is something I have long struggled with. My go-to has been almond milk for a long time, but my frequent trips to Whole Foods keep me in tune with "what's next" on the market. And the other day, while I was exploring California (the "healthy alternative" capital of the United States), I saw a new option in the store: Camel Milk.

As someone who does a lot of research and reading, I was curious to know more about it. So I pulled out my phone and did a quick Google search. One of the things I have come to appreciate (and this is especially true for gluten free food products as well) is the personal story that tends to accompany the founders of health conscious brands. I remember listening to Seth Goldman and Barry Nalebuff, founders of Honest Tea, speak at Chicago Ideas Week a few years ago, and their story was the prime example of that "golden intersection" between what makes sense of the market, and also what makes people feel good--literally and figuratively.

In similar fashion, I found a feel-good story behind this camel milk startup, Desert Farms.

The company was founded in 2014 by Walid Abdul-Wahab in Santa Monica, California. Originally, it was an educational project at USC while Abdul-Wahab was a student. He had recently visited Saudi Arabia and learned that camel milk was being used medicinally in the Middle East and the US for complex health problems. He brought the idea back to California, and the project then received support from the USC Marshall School of Business start-up accelerator later that year, and initial distribution sold the milk in Texas, California, and Ohio.

Dairy-free alternative, business school start-up accelerator, Millennial founder... You see my interest?

The company, Desert Farms, was the first to offer retail camel milk for sale in the United States. It is sold in both pasteurized and unpasteurized forms, as well as a kefir yogurt-drink form. The milk itself is produced in the midwest, where camels are raised by Amish farmers on GMO-free pastures.

So I bought some. I became a consumer. (And yes, if you're interested, I liked it--but that's not the purpose of this article.)

What's more interesting is how health consciousness has begun to dictate forward-thinking food concepts that, quite literally go the opposite direction of "easiest to scale." Here's a mind-blowing stat I found on the Desert Farms website: In the United States, there is one camel for every 18,000 cows. Think about that for a second. And that's what makes the health space so fascinating, is that we are now in an age where it's not so much about doing what is "most profitable," as much as what is "best for the body."

I remember back in 2008 when I found out I was allergic to both gluten and dairy, there were hardly any brands out there catering to "that" kind of consumer. And then, slowly but surely, the coconut milks and the almond milks and the hemp milks of the world started to emerge, because they saw a need in the market. And even as someone who was looking for a dairy alternative, I remember looking at "coconut milk" and thinking, "Who in their right mind would ever drink that?" So imagine how the average consumer who knows nothing about the food they are eating (or drinking) perceives those items.

So, what do you think? Is Camel Milk the next hot dairy-free alternative? The health benefits are obvious: a natural probiotic, 50% lower fat than USDA cow milk, plenty of B1 and C vitamins, and most of all, is an option for people with lactose intolerance.

And let's not forget, the company slogan is, "Make every day a hump day." As a Millennial, I'd buy off that marketing alone.

Published on: Dec 1, 2016
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