A pair of locals have launched a hemp milk company with Santa Monica roots. Courtesy photo.

The first locally-produced, hemp-based “milk” has hit the shelves of grocers throughout the Westside, and founders Drew Schwartz and Daniel Art said they believe their dairy alternative can help change the world.

Udder Free Only, or UFO, is plant-based milk crafted without the use of any added gums or stabilizers and utilizes just six recognizable, organic ingredients including hemp, oat, and chia, according to the pair of Santa Monica residents, who said in an interview they are proud to see their product adorn the shelves of stores like Whole Foods. But the Northeastern University alumni didn’t always know they’d find success in a glass bottle.

“I came out here to work in the music industry and it was right around the recession, so I was struggling to find work and was doing a bunch of odd jobs around town,” Schwartz said.

But after working full-time for Bruno Mars’ management company, for a couple of years he realized that wasn’t the best fit for him.

“I wanted to do something that was a little more aligned with my personal values of environmentalism, and health and wellness,” he said.

Schwartz eventually found a partner in Art and, together, the two have spent months carefully perfecting their USDA certified organic, gluten-free dairy alternative, which has proven to be a hit among local residents.

“Our non-dairy milk product contains hemp seeds, chia seeds, and oats. And we don’t use any stabilizers, gums or fillers but we do use all certified USDA Organic ingredients,” Schwartz said. “We chose hemp seeds specifically because of the 2018 Farm Bill, which allowed U.S. farmers to actually grow industrial hemp seed and farm it and sell it domestically for the first time in, I think, over 50 years. So, we’re the first hemp milk in glass packaging that is using USDA-certified organic hemp hearts grown from U.S. farmers.”
The recipe was developed through trial and error since the two founders only knew they wanted to work with hemp seeds.
“But not the CBD or THC stuff. We wanted to make something really healthy that mom could enjoy,” Schwartz said. “And we did a bunch of experimenting. We rented a big piece of machinery and we were just in our home kitchen, playing with things like peas and black beans and flaxseed and different flowers until we found a really, really great recipe that was 50% hemp and didn’t need any fillers.”

It would take several months to master the recipe, which has the texture of milk but contains half the sugar of skim milk.

“But we tested it on our friends and family around town. And once we found something that everybody really enjoyed that was the one that we committed to,” said Schwartz.

With an out of this world product now in hand, Schwartz said he and Art started visiting local shops. While the product is no longer available at places like Bob’s Market or Lo/Cal Coffee, Schwartz believes the company would not be where it is today without the prior support of the local Santa Monica establishments.

“But then, unfortunately, when COVID hit, a lot of those locations had to shut their doors so we lost a lot of our business, (however), that’s when Dan and I made the switch to start delivering delivery directly to people all over L.A.,” Schwartz said.

UFO lost 80% of its business around March so it started pumping cash into social media ads that offered free milk.

“And we were getting hundreds of orders because it was free,” he said.
Art would spend a week preparing and manufacturing the milk, and then both would set out during the weekend to hand-deliver bottles to every single person that ordered.

He said they wanted to show people they cared about the community and while the effort served as a marketing tool to get the product in consumers’ hands, it also allowed them to give something to people who might have been out of work due to the crisis.

Schwartz said UFO received a number of subscriptions from the deliveries.
“A lot of people in the neighborhood, especially Santa Monica, were super receptive. They had met us at little sampling events at Bob’s and we had a little pop up down on the beach area, where we just kind of went guerilla-style from the back of our trunk and car sort of thing,” he said.

While bartending at The Ambrose Hotel, Schwartz said he randomly ran into Whole Foods’ employees one night.

“I was really fortunate and had told them about my product and the team was really interested. They said, ‘Well when you guys get it going, let us know,’” Schwartz said, adding, a little more than a month ago UFO launched in Whole Food stores on the Westside.

“We’re trying to build on that traction,” Schwartz said, refusing to take credit for the company’s success. “It’s still early to say whether or not things are gonna stabilize for us,” but it’s certainly been a journey up to this point in time.

“Initially, we were just doing it in our kitchen but now we have giant pots and a big mill and we have all these glass bottles that we bring with us,” Schwartz said. “Pretty much, every day we get something new,” but it’s worth it cause in the end he and his partner can say they created a vegan milk that not only tastes great but also furthers their mission of environmental sustainability.