Instagram-viral milkshake shop taps into vegan food market

Black Tap rolls out vegan CrazyShake following plant-based ice cream launches from Ben & Jerry's, KIND

More ice cream makers are going dairy-free amid declining milk sales and changing consumer preferences.

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Black Tap, the New York City-based burger joint turned viral sensation after launching its towering milkshakes in 2015, announced Monday it will offer its first fully vegan CrazyShake in a chocolate and vanilla flavor at shop locations globally.

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The Vegan Black 'N White CakeShake is Black Tap's first vegan CrazyShake and starts rolling out on menus worldwide. (Black Tap).

The vegan shake, dubbed The Black 'n White Cake Shake, is a dairy-free ode to the iconic black-and-white cookie. It's made with a soy-based chocolate shake, vanilla frosting made from almond milk, chocolate chips and topped with a black-and-white cake made with apple sauce instead of dairy. It's finished with a rice-based whipped cream and drizzled in chocolate. The towering milkshake costs a cool $18 and is now available in New York locations, Las Vegas and Singapore.

Black Tap's vegan milkshake launch comes as more food businesses pivot to vegan options amid declining milk sales. America's biggest milk producer, Dean Foods, said it was filing for bankruptcy in November due to the continuing decline in milk consumption. Milk sales plummeted to $12 billion in 2019 from $15 billion in 2015, according to market research from Nielsen. Almond milk sales, meanwhile, have surged almost 6 percent to $1.35 billion, while oat milk surged 662 percent to $59.8 million last year, Nielsen data show. 

Last week, ice cream giant Ben & Jerry's announced its new ice cream flavor Netflix and Chill'd, a peanut butter ice cream base combined with sweet and salty pretzel swirls and fudge brownie, which is available in a dairy-free variety using an almond milk base. And Kind, the fruit and nut bar brand, announced it would launch it's plant-based, dairy-free frozen ice cream bars nationwide. Other dessert brands like mini cupcake empire Bake By Melissa have also rolled out dairy-free varieties of their signature products.

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"Research shows that veganism grew 600 percent from 2014 to 2017, but we don't have to read the stats to know vegan foods are in demand," Black Tap owner Chris Barish said in a statement. "We knew we needed to take our time to carefully craft this shake and not simply put any shake on the menu."

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It's no surprise that more food brands are ramping up their plant-based, vegan efforts. Retail sales for plant-based foods have grown 11 percent in the past year, bringing the total market value to more than $4.5 billion, according to the Plant Based Foods Association. The total of U.S. retail food has grown just 2 percent in dollar sales during the same period, according to the same report, suggesting that plant-based alternatives seem to be driving the industry. The market for vegan foods is forecast to reach as much as $24.3 billion by 2026.

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