AVONMORE – Omid MacDonald, founder of VodKow vodka, made a presentation at the recent Stormont Dairy Producers’ annual general meeting to discuss the company’s discovery of milk permeate and what their next steps will be.
“We’re doing some innovative stuff with milk permeate,” said MacDonald. “It’s a huge product here in Ontario. Milk permeate is the by-product of ultrafiltered milk production.”
According to MacDonald’s presentation, while milk permeate is a high lactose liquid that is produced through billions of litres annually, it’s also being considered a waste product.
“When you make ultrafiltered milk, you’re concentrating the proteins in the skim milk and the Americans came up with this 50 years ago to reduce costs before being shipped to yogurt and cheese makers,” he said. “And right now, in Winchester where Parmalat has one of the newest ultrafilter plants in Canada, they are currently producing 200,000 litres of milk permeate a day, and do you know where it goes? It gets thrown into a giant pit, it gets thrown out. They have no use for that, and you guys are paying for that.”
The disposal of milk permeate must be treated properly before being dumped because lactose is harmful to the environment.
“So we came across [that liquid] recently and called it ‘liquid gold’ around the office,” MacDonald continued. “At the beginning of this project, we had no idea what it was going to taste like, which sounds completely nuts, but I had a feeling that milk permeate would taste great.”
MacDonald was surprised that not only did the VodKow taste great but it also exceeded expectations.
“When we first started selling in November of last year, we thought we would sell 1,000 bottles and we ended up selling that within the first week, and within the first month we sold about 5,000 bottles just in our distillery store front in Almonte,” he said. “It all comes down to the taste and it does taste amazing; that has given us the confidence to think bigger than just looking at alcohol.”
Three large areas of opportunity that MacDonald is looking at for the future of his company include spirits, food and fuel.
“I got a great start of spirits and will be in 25 LCBO stores in a couple of weeks and we’re aiming to have full Ontario-wide distribution which is about 150 stores across the province,” said MacDonald. “The main building in Almonte produces 250,000 bottles a year which sounds like a lot but really, it’s just a drop in the bucket. Canadians consume about 50 million litres of vodka a year and worldwide vodka consumption is about 2.3 billion litres. So, our factory would be able to supply Ontario.”
MacDonald plans to produce new products including VodKow Cream, 100 per cent dairy cream liqueur, Gin, VodKow infused with botanicals, coffee liquor, partnership with Equator coffee to produce Kahlua equivalent and Mooskie, oak barrel aged permeate spirit.
Based on the popularity of VodKow, the company will be expanding to prove that the product is a mass market brand.
At the end of the presentation, MacDonald invited everyone to have a taste of some prime VodKow vodka, to which the whole room proceeded to line-up for with eager anticipation.