Sometimes all it takes to start a new food business is a conversation between friends.
“During a walk on the Atlanta Beltline, Kate and I were transitioning in our careers and looking for a new opportunity. We were talking about what we should do with ourselves and as I recall, she said we should start something,” remembers Bess Weyandt of her conversation with Kate Carter.
Weyandt shared an idea she’d been considering, creating an almond milk delivery company. It was April 2015. Two weeks after their talk, the pair was in business as Treehouse Milk. Four months later, they produced their first bottles of nut milk.
Carter says the idea was to put a modern twist on the old-fashioned milkman. They’d provide home delivery of nut milks in glass bottles.
“We think this is really the future of dairy,” said Weyandt.
They started their marketing with emails to friends and family and the response was as positive as they hoped it would be.
Soon they also started selling at the Grant Park Farmers Market on Sunday mornings. Now they’re at Freedom Market at the Carter Center, the Peachtree Road Farmers Market, the Ponce City Farmers Market and the Westside Farmers Market as well as Grant Park. Customers can buy the milk from them at the markets and talk to them at the markets to set up home delivery as well. Or they can order online at treehousemilk.com.
“We’ve found that many successful businesses get off to a great start at farmers markets. It’s a great way to introduce your product to the community and to have a stake in the local food community as well,” said Weyandt. “It’s just a very nurturing culture for local food businesses.”
The pair started off knowing they’d make almond milk, but hours of testing and lots of tasting sessions with friends convinced them that pecan milk was the first thing they should add to their product line. Now they sell eight varieties of nut milk: pecan, plain almond, sweetened almond, cacao almond, almond oat, chocolate pecan, cashew and macadamia.
The most popular flavors? Pecan and cacao almond.
“We sell to some local stores like Candler Park Market and Savi Provisions. And coffee shops like Spiller Park at Ponce City Market use our milk in their coffee drinks,” said Carter. “Spiller Park uses our pecan milk by the gallon. Their signature coffee drink is their pecan latte.”
The process of making nut milk is pretty simple. In a shared commercial kitchen in Avondale Estates, the pair spends four days a week making nut milk with the help of their employee Paige Castle. The components are few, basically nuts and water, and the equipment is modest. A Vitamix and a strainer. Each batch of nut milk is processed, strained and bottled by hand.
The business model of milk delivery has been successful for them. “We deliver anywhere in the city of Atlanta inside the Perimeter and in Decatur. The milk turns up on your doorstep within an hour of being made.” And chances are it will be Carter or Weyandt delivering your milk.
Milk is delivered on Mondays and Thursdays and no minimum order is required. A $5 delivery fee is waived if the order is for $30 or more. Orders can also be picked up at The Mercantile in Candler Park, The Preserving Place in Westside, The Market in Avondale Estates and at Dulce Vegan in Kirkwood.
Both women find Atlanta is a good place to start a food business. “People here seem to feel more connected to where their food is coming from. There’s a lot of good energy in food and the craft of food right now,” said Weyandt.
“I think that’s one of the reasons we are so very excited about our pecan milk, with the pecans sourced from Pearson Farm in Fort Valley. It’s a wonderful Georgia crop and a wonderful Georgia product. We love that we’re producing something that’s so healthy and that it’s so local,” added Carter.