It would be strange to think we are now at the point where dairy companies are going bust and the remaining dairy companies are funnelling money into PR campaigns to smear the growth of plant based milks, but here we are!
It's a reality and we can't see this changing anytime soon. But with this unrelenting growth, comes a few caveats. Dairy companies are buying up plant-based companies to hedge against their decline. With this comes the commoditiaztion of this category and few watch outs. As with any price war, the juice that gets squeezed or in this case the "milk" is the ingredients and then the quality of the final product you the consumer buys or has in their coffee.
Our recommendation is to read the label, what should I look for and where should I start?
Percentage %: This is typically a target of any plant based naysayer, but it may have legs. All plant based milks have different levels of ingredient content. This can include percentage of almond, soy, coconut, oat and more! Depending on the milk type, the ingredient tends to be at differing levels, but this is a very good place to start to understand the varying quality of the milk. No surprises, as the higher % of the ingredient, the more likely the product is of a higher quality.
Ingredient type: Whole, hulled, blend, powder, flakes, added protein, added other ingredient. These are all things you didn't think might add up to the constitution of your product.
Whole: Typically reflects a higher quality ingredient as the original element of the intended milk made it into the processing journey.
Hulled: This is a byproduct of a superior product. This is essentially a more cost effective (Or cost cutting) technique used, instead of the whole ingredient.
Blend: This could be a mix of whole, hulled, powder or anything for that matter? The use of the word "blend" is a watch out ingredient as it doesn't clearly state what's in the blend or why it has been used in the place of the original intended label stated milk type.
Flakes/Powder: This doesn't need much explaining, it either a shaved down version or very processed iteration of all of the above. When you find either of these, often follows an added protein powder. If the milk was as was intended on the label, it wouldn't require a protein. This typically is found in protects pretending to be something they are not.
Added Sugar/Fructose/Syrup: Like all milks, not all sugars are created or added equally. In a lot of instances, why does sugar need to be added to a product? Take note of the sugar added, white, raw, unrefined or brown. Instead of a sugar, there may be fructose or a syrup present, do not be fooled by this, a lot of these syrups are as worse or worse than some types of sugar. If you had a preference, steer towards brown.
Acidity regulators: Typically these have the name "acid" "phosphate" in their name and while they sneak into your milk. Would you find yourself ordering them on a menu? Probably not, is your answer. They are typically added to as the name suggests, balance, thicken and regulate the product. The jury is still out on wether or not they are good for you and without make unsubstantiated statements, it worth noting that some often find themselves in a fertilizer.
Calcium (Calcium carbonate): This is added for the purpose of plant-based milks having a form of calcium within and is the most common additive in the market for these products. Whilst it may not be a perfect additive, in the amount most commonly used, it is ingestible and serves it's calcium adding purpose.
Gums: are added in order to hold the milk together and provide it's texture, in some cases this is not ultimately necessary. Especially when three are present. They come in all shapes in sizes, but typically there is one to avoid which is named carrageenan. I recommend that you google this ingredient to understand it isn't the best gum to be had. If there is one gum present, we recommend you keep it to that, one gum.
Summary: In light of all the information conveyed above, the formula isn't surprising, try and keep it simple. What may be surprising is, that you didn't realise what was in your favourite plant based milk. While the final decision rests with you as the individual, we hope this piece may help enlighten your ingredients inspection mindset!