The industry for non-dairy alternatives to milk has grown exponentially in the last decade. In fact, worldwide sales doubled between 2009 and 2015 to $21 billion.
Buying milk from the supermarket is not as straightforward as it used to be. We aren’t just limited to full cream and skim; there’s a whole world of non-dairy options available. The most popular alternatives are derived from soy, almond, rice, coconut, cashew and macadamia. Oat, pea and hemp milks are also making appearances. Next time you’re at the supermarket, peruse the options and you’ll be surprised at the selection. Non-dairy alternatives are not only popular for those with allergies or intolerances to cow’s milk; they have become a lifestyle choice.
Tip: Look for “calcium fortified” varieties, which contain similar amounts of calcium to cow’s milk.
This is a fabulous alternative for vegans, as it’s lactose-, soy-, and dairy-free. If you have ever tried to purchase almond milk from the supermarket, you may have struggled to choose between the refrigerated options and long-life options. The only difference is that they have been pasteurized differently. Without getting too technical, they use either UHT (ultra high heat) pasteurization or HTST (high-temperature short-time) pasteurization. The UHT processing for shelf milk doesn’t actually deplete key nutrients like protein and calcium. (Fitness Magazine goes into depth about this).
If you’re tossing up between brands, the best way to choose is to do a direct comparison of the almond content. The unsweetened option is your best bet.
The not so good news
The thing about almond milk is that it’s not so great for the environment. It takes five litres of water to grow one almond. Around 80 per cent of the world’s almonds are produced in California (Almond Board of California) and the state suffered from a drought for more than five years (California Water Science Center).
According to estimates from Euromonitor International, almond consumption grew 15 per cent from 2012 to 2017 and growth is predicted to continue rising through to 2021 by 4 per cent annually.
With the market growth in lactose-free alternatives comes the rise in the lesser-known oat milk. Made from steel cut oats mixed with water, oat milk is nut-free, high in fiber and has a neutral and creamy flavor. It requires six times less the amount of water to grow than an almond, making it much more sustainable to produce. Sweden-based Oatly was the world’s first producer of oat milk and has been making it for about 30 years. It has made its way into cafes in the United States and has been praised by coffee drinkers for its taste and consistency. Unlike soy milk, it reacts well to heating and doesn’t curdle.
Raw milk is a growing food fad but sales are restricted. In 17 states, raw milk is allowed to be purchased on the farm on which it was produced. Only 13 states in the US (which includes California) are allowed to sell their milk in retail stores. Selling and purchasing raw milk in Canada is illegal. Read more here. There is a long history and debate surrounding legalizing raw milk in the United States. Raw milk is unpasteurized, a process where milk products are heated to make them safe for drinking. Public health authorities claim that there is a risk of illness from raw milk consumption. Others swear by it and advocate the benefits. The Guardian investigated this further. If you’d like to learn more, we encourage you to watch the “Milk Money” episode as part of the “Rotten” Netflix documentary series.
Rice milk is made from brown rice and commonly found unsweetened. It is often available in different flavours, much like almond milk. It’s low in fat and generally tastes sweeter than cow’s milk. Research suggest it lowers cholesterol and hypertension, and has anti-diabetic, anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidative effects.
Hemp, soy, coconut, macadamia, cashew and pea milks are also great non-daily options. We recommend you do further research to ensure that you are choosing the best option for you. If you enjoy making your food from scratch, read our post on Homemade Nut Milk.