The modern dairy aisle is characterized by overwhelming choice. Milk alternatives occupy as much space as actual milk, and debates about the drink go beyond—well beyond—whole vs. nonfat. Now, for lactose-sensitive people who have grown weary of nut milks, there is an option called A2 milk. A2 isn’t a milk alternative. It's milk designed for people who have switched over to milk alternatives. The a2 Milk Company produces this new (to Americans, anyway) kind of milk from real cows, marketing it as "The Original Milk that Feels Better!" The formula has worked in Australia, where A2 milk accounts for over 12 percent of the fresh milk market.
So what is A2 milk, and how exactly does it "feel better"? In the 1990s Corran McLachlan, a scientist in New Zealand, discovered the A1 and A2 proteins in cow milk. He found that many of the people who experience discomfort after drinking milk are not actually lactose intolerant. Rather, they have trouble digesting the A1 protein. Luckily, A1 isn’t present in all cows' milk, and about one-third of cows naturally produce milk with only the A2 protein. McLachlan developed a genetic hair test for the proteins and subsequently started The a2 Milk Company to produce and sell milk without the troublesome A1 protein.
The a2 Milk Company introduced A2 milk to Australia more than ten years ago, and it's just now appearing in the US, only in California, the Pacific Northwest, and Colorado. Quartz predicts the "super" milk will struggle to gain footing in a country where milks that claim to offer healthier twists traditional milk, like ultra-filtered Fairlife and Smart Balance's Heart Right, account for just 0.5 percent of the milk market. Having never consumed any of these, I'd have to agree.
A2 may be too engineered to take off among people who exalt cashew-almond-soy-hemp-coconut milks. Despite the packaging's rolling green hills and the word naturally stamped right there in all caps, the word A2 just sounds unnatural. Nut milks are popular not only because they don't irritate the bowels. It's because they seem natural and therefore also healthier. Never mind that they make cereal taste worse and are a poor substitute for real milk in lattes, as evidenced by their inability to create passable latte art.
A2 does, however, seem perfect for mildly lactose intolerant early adopters—the kind of folks who live in West Coast metropolitan areas where a2 milk is currently being sold. And as research continues to determine the exact benefits of eliminating A1 from milk (some have even suggested that it prevents autoimmune diseases) there's hope yet that The a2 Milk Company will be embraced by milk-drinking Americans throughout the country. If marketing can't get them there, maybe science can.