Camel milk has been used for centuries in the Middle East, Asian and North African cultures, but is now subject to increased interest from around the world.
Traditionally served as a natural remedy, it is becoming popular with health-conscious consumers and people who have food allergies or intolerances.
Wealthy health conscious consumers
Walid Abdul-Wahab, founder and CEO of Desert Farms, told DairyReporter.com the majority of consumers use it because of its nutritional and medicinal claims.
“It will never be as competitive as cows’ or goats’ milk in terms of price, but it will definitely gain much popularity due to its reported health benefits and healing properties and will definitely be seen as a 'superfood’," he said.
Camel milk is naturally 50% lower in fat and 50% lower in saturated fat than cows’ milk, the company claims. It also cites it as a natural pro-biotic, and a source of calcium, vitamin B1, protein, potassium and phosphorus.
The milk can be drunk by people with lactose intolerance, and attracts diabetics because it is high in insulin. It has also been suggested it could help children with autism.
“80% [of customers] are parents who have children with autism or who have food allergies,” said Abdul-Wahab. “10% of people have diabetes, and the remainder are high intensity athletes, wealthy health conscious consumers, ethnic communities such as Muslims and Somalis.”
Consumers are not put off by price tag
However, camel milk comes at a price - $16 for a pint (473ml) of pasteurized whole camel milk.
“It’s expensive because we are outnumbered - there are 18,000 cows for every camel in the US,” said Abdul-Wahab. “Production is very low and demand is very high."
However, he is confident people are prepared to pay for it.
“Parents are replacing their over-the-counter and prescription drugs to use camel milk as a natural remedy. So given the intended use it’s not that expensive - parents would spend hundreds and thousands of dollars and therapy and drugs.
“It’s a very niche market with lots of potential to grow, as we increase our production the cost of the milk will go down.”
Abdul-Wahab, who is originally from Saudi Arabia but moved to California, launched Desert Farms in January this year. He realized Americans valued a healthy lifestyle and started his ‘camel milk revolution.’
Abdul-Wahab said the company broke even during its second month of operation. The milk comes from Amish and small family farms in the US, where camels are pasture-raised.
“Desert Farms is in 40 whole foods store in Northern California and 11 stores in Southern California, as of today the company has more than $100k in total sales,” he said.
But the company has big plans to grow further.
“We just came up with camel milk Kefir, a fermented drink,” said Abdul-Wahab. “We also launched our cosmetics line which will have camel milk soaps, and we are working on lotions and creams. We are working on a new product line for infants, a 100% camel milk powder and camel milk whey powder.
“We are a couple of months away from launching our 8oz camel milk for "back to school" kids, some may have flavors such as dates, chocolate and strawberry. Other products such as camel milk chocolate bars, camel milk ice cream, camel milk cheese will be launched by the beginning of next year.”