Annabella formed six years ago as a water buffalo mozzarella operation. According to Andres Salazar, of Annabella, buffalo milk makes a better cheese than cow’s milk because “it has different attributes and fat content.”
Buffalo mozzarella is common in Italy, but its distribution logistics can be hard to navigate. It’s a long flight to the US, and any warm temperatures on the journey can cause problems with the cheese. Salazar believed he could do it better by flying his cheese in small batches on a shorter flight from Colombia to Miami.
After a few years of cheese production, Annabella was dealing with a surplus of milk. They turned to yogurt, and now have a line including Plain, Honey, Passion Fruit, Blackberry and Strawberry.
Bringing consumers back to dairy
One of the draws to buffalo milk is that it is completely a2, potentially making it suitable for consumers with a lactose allergy. Salazar also told DairyReporter that his yogurt contains nearly double the protein, double the calcium, almost half the cholesterol as cow’s milk yogurt. He likens it to Greek yogurt without the straining process.
“We needed to do a product that took advantage of all attributes that the milk provides. In terms of the flavors, our thoughts were to use local fruits, because the yogurts are made in Colombia. Out of our local fruits, the no-brainer was passionfruit, and we wanted use fruits from down there that the American market also has,” Salazar said.
“Once we get brand recognition, the idea is to start introducing a lot of beautiful fruits that we have access to in Colombia that never make it to the US because of restrictions.”
Salazar doesn’t anticipate a lot of immediate competition with buffalo milk products within the US due to strict FDA guidelines. It took a few years for Annabella to go through the inspection process, and it may take up to three years before other yogurts make it to the US market.
But Annabella thinks a2 yogurts that come from a base like buffalo milk have the potential to fill a gap that’s starting to be filled by plant-based yogurt alternatives. People with an intolerance to dairy often turn away from it completely without determining the root of their allergy, and a2 products are a way to bring those people back to real dairy consumption.
Salazar and the Annabella team attended the Natural Products Expo West show in Anaheim this month, where they connected with new retail partners and customers for a second year. Their Low Moisture Buffalo Mozzarella was also awarded the show’s Nexty award for Best New Meat, Dairy or Animal-Based Product.
The company plans to focus on increasing brand recognition this year, and likely won’t introduce any new yogurt flavors or products until early 2020.