Researching this company has convinced me to be a repeat customer and if you are interested in reducing your carbon footprint by opting for more sustainable options, this is certainly an effective way to do so. Ripple is made from pea protein and badly beats dairy and almond milk by having both less resources used and less emissions generated to produce the same quantity of product. Their product comes in a 100% post-consumer recycled PET bottle which is 100% recyclable. The company seems to genuinely care about sustainability and is transparent about it. Ripple makes it much more convenient for consumers to live more eco-consciously.
Ingredients: WATER, PEA PROTEIN BLEND (WATER, PEA PROTEIN), SUNFLOWER OIL, CONTAINS LESS THAN 1% OF VITAMIN A PALMATE, VITAMIN D2, VITAMIN B12, DHA ALGAL OIL, TRICALCIUM PHOSPHATE, DIPOTASSIUM PHOSPHATE, SUNFLOWER LECITHIN, SEA SALT, MIXED TOCOPHEROLS (TO PRESERVE FRESHNESS), NATURAL FLAVOR, GUAR GUM, GELLAN GUM.
Pea milk is one of the newer forms of plant-based milks looking to disrupt the market. Ripple believes that making plant-based foods can help make society more sustainable, but is this really the case? Well when it comes to milk, the answer seems to be yes. The main ingredient here is the pea protein. Peas, which are legumes, are nitrogen-fixing and convert atmospheric nitrogen into ammonium nitrogen. In this way, peas can be planted after harvest of a crop that places strain on the soil to help improve the fertility of the soil for the next growing season. When it comes to extraction of the pea protein from the pea, only approximately 58% of the mass of the pea gets converted into protein. The leftover 42% is starch and fiber which can be used (and sold) as animal feed. Recycling the pea in this way reduces the amount of new food that must be grown in order to raise livestock. Peas do not use much water and have a low carbon footprint. If there is a greater demand for pea milk in the future, farmers may be encouraged to rotate crops with peas more frequently which will improve soil quality for future crops. The only problem here is that Ripple sources their peas from a French grower when they could be sourcing from somewhere in/around the US such as North Dakota, Montana, or Canada. Sourcing product further from the US increases the amount of emissions that are generated in a product’s life cycle.
Aside from the peas, there are two other ingredients that are worth mentioning when determining the sustainability of this product: sugar and sunflower oil. For all formulations of Ripple besides the unsweetened version, cane sugar is required. Cane sugar is normally harmful on the environment, but Ripple uses organic cane sugar to ensure that the sugar is produced with good farming practices. Sunflower oil on the other hand has a large environmental impact as it has high acidification, energy usage, carbon emissions, and eutrophication potential (excessive nutrients in bodies of water due to agricultural runoff; grows algae and kills animals below) when compared to other plant oils.
I know what you must be wondering: how do you milk a pea? The process to make Ripple pea milk has four steps: pea farming, pea protein separation, non-dairy milk processing, use and disposal. When compared to almond milk, soy milk, and dairy milk, Ripple had the lowest emissions per liter of milk produced and the lowest emissions for protein production (g CO2e/kg protein in one L of milk). Because Ripple outperforms competitor milk products (soy, dairy, and almond) in nearly every category, I believe Ripple to be one of the most sustainable milk products on the market. Ripple is non-GMO certified by the non-GMO project. It is important for crops to be non-GMO because this means that a crop is not modified to be able to withstand a whirlwind of pesticides. This helps to protect local ecosystems by reducing the toxicity of runoff and also minimizes the health ramifications of humans ingesting toxic pesticides. Consistent with their mission of creating a more sustainable milk product, they package their milk in a 100% post-consumer recycled PET plastic bottle. The plastic comes from old bottles and will not be down-cycled into lower quality items because 100% of it can be turned right back into a bottle. Mother Earth is crying tears of joy.
When I think of Ripple as a company, three things immediately come to my mind. First, the life cycle assessment from which this information comes from notes that Ripple took the initiative to perform a life cycle assessment on their products. This level of transparency makes me feel very comfortable being a repeat customer because I know that Ripple cares about being a sustainable company and not just about having a sustainable sounding product. Second, the packaging that Ripple uses is highly sustainable. Since 94% of American households have access to PET recycling, this design choice makes it that much easier for consumers to be more sustainable and that much environmental good adds up fast. Third, Ripple has a tab on their website titled “Healthy Environment” which serves to educate consumers about the environmental impacts of various milk products. I admit that the facts presented serve to make their product appear to be more sustainable than competitors. While I do not know how Ripple compares against other plant-based milks such as hemp, oat, or rice milks, I do know that it is only marginally better than soy milk (Ripple has higher N2O emissions) which is not clearly discussed on their website. Ripple makes a cohort of other pea-based products and has been able to raise a fair amount of capital from ESG investors. These three components make me think of Ripple as a highly sustainable brand. The reason they are not getting a full third star is because there are still things they can do to be a more sustainable brand (low carbon transportation, clean energy in production, better sourcing, organic status).