Plant milk
TypeNondairy beverage and ingredient
ColorWhite
FlavorVarious; creamy texture
IngredientsWater and a grain, pseudocereal, legume, nut, seed, or coconut (which is a drupe as defined by the US Library of Congress)
Amazake, Japanese rice milk
Amazake, Japanese rice milk
Glass of horchata de chufa (tiger nut milk) in a café in Spain
Glass of horchata de chufa (tiger nut milk) in a café in Spain
Shelves of Swedish oat drinks in original, organic, and coffee
Shelves of Swedish oat drinks in original, organic, and coffee

Plant milk is a plant beverage with a color resembling that of milk. Plant milks are non-dairy beverages made from a water-based plant extract for flavoring and aroma.[1][2] Plant milks are consumed as plant-based alternatives to dairy milk, and often provide a creamy mouthfeel.[3] By 2021, among some 17 plants are used to manufacture plant milk, almond, oat, soy, and coconut were the highest-selling plant milks worldwide.[4][5]

Plant-based beverages have been consumed for centuries, with the term "milk-like plant juices" used since the 13th century.[6] Today they are frequently referred to as plant-based milk, alternative milk, non-dairy milk or vegan milk. For commerce, plant-based beverages are typically packaged in containers similar and competitive to those used for dairy milk, but cannot be labeled as "milk" within the European Union.[7]

Across various cultures, plant milk has been both a traditional beverage and a flavourful ingredient in sweet and savory dishes, such as the use of coconut milk in curries. They are beverages that are compatible with vegetarian and are vegan lifestyles. Plant milks are also used to make "ice cream", plant cream, vegan cheese, and "yogurt", such as soy yogurt or vegurt.[8] In 2021 the global plant milk market was estimated to reach US$62 billion by 2030.[5]

History

Before commercial production of 'milks' from legumes, beans and nuts, plant-based mixtures that are supposed to resemble milk have existed for centuries.[9] The Wabanaki and other Native American tribal nations in the northeastern United States made milk and infant formula from nuts.[10][11]

Horchata, a beverage originally made in North Africa from soaked, ground, and sweetened tiger nuts, spread to Iberia (now Spain) before the year 1000.[12][13] In English, the word "milk" has been used to refer to "milk-like plant juices" since 1200 AD.[6]

Recipes from the 13th-century Levant exist describing almond milk.[14] Soy was a plant milk used in China during the 14th century.[3][12] In Medieval England, almond milk was used in dishes such as ris alkere (a type of rice pudding)[15] and appears in the recipe collection, The Forme of Cury.[16] Coconut milk (and coconut cream) are traditional ingredients in many cuisines such as in South and Southeast Asia, and are often used in curries.[17]

Plant milks may be regarded as milk substitutes in Western countries, but have traditionally been consumed in other parts of the world, especially ones where there are higher rates of lactose intolerance (see especially lactose intolerance: epidemiology section).[2]

Types

Common plant milks are almond milk, coconut milk, rice milk, and soy milk. Other plant milks include hemp milk, oat milk, pea milk, and peanut milk.[2][18][19]

Plant milks can be made from:

A blend is a plant milk created by mixing two or more types together. Common examples of blends are almond-coconut milk and almond-cashew milk.[citation needed]

Other traditional plant milk recipes include:

Manufacturing

Mean greenhouse gas emissions for one glass (200 g) of different milks[20]
Milk Types Greenhouse Gas Emissions (kg CO2-Ceq per 200 g)
Cow's milk
0.62
Rice milk
0.23
Soy milk
0.21
Oat milk
0.19
Almond milk
0.16
Mean water footprint for one glass (200 g) of different milks[20]
Milk Types Water use (L per 200 g)
Cow's milk
131
Almond milk
74
Rice milk
56
Oat milk
9
Soy milk
2
Mean land use for one glass (200 g) of different milks[20]
Milk Types Land Use (m2 per 200 g)
Cow's milk
1.81
Oat milk
0.25
Soy milk
0.23
Almond milk
0.19
Rice milk
0.14

Although there are variations in the manufacturing of plant milks according to the starting plant material, as an example, the general technique for soy milk involves several steps, including:[2][3][21]

The actual content of the highlighted plant in commercial plant milks may be only around 2%.[3] Other ingredients commonly added to plant milks during manufacturing include guar gum, xanthan gum, or sunflower lecithin for texture and mouthfeel, select micronutrients (such as calcium, B vitamins, and vitamin D), salt, and natural or artificial ingredients—such as flavours characteristic of the featured plant—for aroma, color, and taste.[2][3][21][18] Plant milks are also used to make ice cream, plant cream, vegan cheese, and yogurt, such as soy yogurt.

The production of almond-based dairy substitutes has been criticized on environmental grounds as large amounts of water and pesticides are used.[22][23] The emissions, land, and water footprints of plant milks vary, due to differences in crop water needs, farming practices, region of production, production processes, and transportation.[20]

Nutritional comparison with cow's milk

Many plant milks aim to contain the same proteins, vitamins and lipids as those produced by lactating mammals.[24] Generally, because plant milks are manufactured using processed extracts of the starting plant, plant milks are lower in nutrient density than dairy milk and are fortified during manufacturing to add precise levels of micronutrients, commonly calcium and Vitamins A and D.[3][18][19]

Nutritional content of human, cow, soy, almond, and oat milks
(non-human milks are fortified)
Nutrient value
per 250 mL cup
Human
milk
[25]
Cow milk
(whole)[26]
Soy milk
(unsweetened)[27]
Almond milk
(unsweetened)[28]
Oat milk
(unsweetened)[29]
Energy, kJ (cal) 720 (172) 620 (149) 330 (80) 160 (39) 500 (120)
Protein (g) 2.5 7.69 6.95 1.55 3
Fat (g) 10.8 7.93 3.91 2.88 5
Saturated fat (g) 4.9 4.55 0.5 0.21 0.5
Carbohydrate (g) 17.0 11.71 4.23 1.52 16
Fiber (g) 0 0 1.2 0 2
Sugars (g) 17.0 12.32 1 0 7
Calcium (mg) 79 276 301[a] 516[a] 350[a]
Potassium (mg) 125 322 292 176 390
Sodium (mg) 42 105 90 186 140
Vitamin B12 (mcg) 0.1 1.10 2.70 0 1.2
Vitamin A (IU) 522 395[b] 503[a] 372[a] 267[a]
Vitamin D (IU) 9.8 124[c] 119[a] 110[a] 144[a]
Cholesterol (mg) 34.4 24 0 0 0
  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Commonly added to plant milks, which do not naturally contain significant levels of the nutrient.
  2. ^ Vitamin A fortification is only required for skimmed milk in the US.
  3. ^ Vitamin D fortification for milk is mandatory in the US.

Packaging and commerce

Plant-based milks have emerged as an alternative to dairy in response to consumer dietary requests and changing attitudes about animals and the environment.[30][31] Huffington Post stated that due to health and environmental reasons as well as changing consumer trends, more individuals regularly buy non-dairy alternatives to milk.[32] Between 1974 and 2020, dairy milk consumption of people aged between 16 and 24 in the United Kingdom decreased from 94% to 73%.[33] In Australia, there is decreased confidence within the dairy industry, with only 53% being optimistic in the future profitability and demand for dairy products as per a Dairy Australia report.[34]

To improve competition, plant milks are typically packaged in containers similar to those of dairy milks.[1][35][36] A scientific journal article argued that plant-milk companies send the message that plant milks are 'good and wholesome' and dairy milk is 'bad for the environment', and the article also reported that an increasing number of young people associate dairy with environmental damage.[37] There has been an increased concern that dairy production has adverse effects on biodiversity, water and land use.[37] These negative links between dairy and the environment have also been communicated through audiovisual material against dairy production, such as 'Cowspiracy' and 'What the Health'.[37] Animal welfare concerns have also contributed to the declining popularity of dairy milk in many Western countries.[37] Advertising for plant milks may also contrast the intensive farming effort to produce dairy milk with the relative ease of harvesting plant sources, such as oats, rice or soybeans.[3][38] In 2021, an advertisement for oat milk brand Oatly aired during the Super Bowl.[39]

In the United States, plant milk sales grew steadily by 61% over the period 2012 to 2018.[40] As of 2019, the plant-based milk industry in the USA is worth $1.8 billion per year.[30] In 2018, the value of 'dairy alternatives' around the world was said to be $8 billion.[41] Among plant milks, almond (64% market share), soy (13% market share), and coconut (12% market share) were category leaders in the United States during 2018.[40] Oat milk sales increased by 250% in Canada during 2019,[42] and its growing consumption in the United States and United Kingdom led to production shortages from unprecedented consumer demand.[43][44] In 2020, one major coffee retailer – Starbucks – added oat milk, coconut milk, and almond milk beverages to its menus in the United States and Canada.[45] During 2020, oat milk sales in the United States increased to $213 million, becoming the second most consumed plant milk after almond milk ($1.5 billion in 2020 sales).[46]

A key dietary reason for the increase in popularity of plant-based milks such as pea milks is lactose intolerance, for example, the most common food causing intolerance in Australia is lactose and affects 4.5% of the population.[47] In the United States, around 40 million people are lactose intolerant.[48]

Labeling and terminology

Plant milks may be labeled to highlight their nutrient contents, or with terms reflecting their composition or absence of ingredients, such as "dairy-free", "gluten-free" or "GMO-free".[3]

Europe

In December 2013, European Union regulations stated that the terms "milk", "butter", "cheese", "cream" and "yoghurt" can only be used to market and advertise products derived from animal milk, with a small number of exceptions including coconut milk, peanut butter and ice cream.[49] In 2017, the Landgericht Trier (Trier regional court), Germany, asked the Court of Justice of the European Union, to clarify European food-labeling law (Case C-422/16),[50] with the court stating that plant-based products cannot be marketed as milk, cream, butter, cheese or yoghurt within the European Union because these are reserved for animal products; exceptions to this do not include tofu and soy. Although plant-based dairy alternatives are not allowed to be called 'milk', 'cheese' and the like, they are allowed to be described as buttery or creamy.[51] In the United Kingdom, strict standards are applied to food labeling for terms such as milk, cheese, cream, yogurt, which are protected to describe dairy products and may not be used to describe non-dairy produce.[52]

United States

In the United States, the dairy industry petitioned the FDA to ban the use of terms like "milk", "cheese", "cream" and "butter" on plant-based analogues (except for peanut butter).[53] FDA commissioner, Scott Gottlieb, stated on July 17, 2018 that the term "milk" is used imprecisely in the labeling of non-dairy beverages, such as soy milk, oat milk and almond milk: "An almond doesn't lactate", he said.[1] In 2019, the US National Milk Producers Federation petitioned the FDA to restrict labeling of plant-based milks, claiming they should be described as "imitation".[54] In response, the Plant-Based Foods Association stated the word "imitation" was disparaging, and there was no evidence that consumers were misled or confused about plant-based milks.[54] A 2018 survey by the International Food Information Council Foundation found that consumers in the United States do not typically confuse plant-based analogues with animal milk or dairy products.[53][55] As of 2018, labeling regulations for plant-based products with names such as "milk" or "yoghurt" were under review.[56]

In 2021, the FDA issued a final rule that amends yogurt's standard of identity (which remains a product of "milk-derived ingredients"), and is expecting to issue industry guidance on "Labeling of Plant-based Milk Alternatives" in 2022.[57][58]

See also

References

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