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This firm aims to make kefir accessible as consumers look to be 'flexitarian with their diets'

Chelsea Lombardo
Production Assistant

The market for fake meat is booming with Impossible Food and Beyond Meat (BYND) creations, but it’s not the only place to find plant-based alternatives.

Lifeway Foods (LWAY) a Morton Grove-Ill.-based health food company that specializes in products made from kefir — a type of fermented milk product — is announcing plans to put its plant-based lineup of products into 6AM Health Fresh Fridge vending machines across the Northeast region of the United States.

Lifeway Foods CEO Julie Smolyansky told Yahoo Finance’s On The Move that the company is looking to make kefir, a storied product that has been traditionally popular in Eastern Europe, more accessible as the plant-based trend surges.

“Consumers are driving innovation in a 2,000-year-old product,” Smolyansky stated, adding that kefir used to be obscure but is now becoming more mainstream. “It's really important for us to make sure that kefir and Lifeway is available at all places where consumers eat, play, work... We are seeing 90% of American consumers looking to be flexitarian with their diets. They're not totally turning away from dairy, but they're open to trying plant-based lines. They are looking to be more ethical, they're more conscious. They're looking at sustainability issues. These are all driving factors which led us to develop the plant-based line called Planitful.”

NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 02: A view of Lifeway products on display at Teen Vogue Summit 2018: #TurnUp - Day 2 at The New School on June 2, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images for Teen Vogue)

Food is no longer considered a luxury, it’s become a part of well-being and health care, according to Smolyansky, and consumers are demanding healthier choices more so than they ever have before. “Consumers are driving changes in the food supply system at dramatic levels... We've never seen such a flip on food right now,” she said, noting that it’s a historic time in the food industry.

“The bigger companies are having a hard time being as nimble, which puts Lifeway in this great position, because we're not a startup, but we're not so big yet,” Smolyansky added. “While we are the 95% category leader in kefir, we still have a lot of opportunities to grow. And we can still respond to those changing consumer demands really quickly, which is why we're able to evolve plant based, the Planitful line, and just [be] quick to market. We can leverage our partners, and our existing relationships, and our know how to get our plant-based line into the marketplace really quickly in ways that the larger companies can't.”

Chelsea Lombardo is a production assistant for Yahoo Finance. You can find more of her work here.

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