Pop into the nearest local supermarket and chances are there will be at least one or two plant-based milk alternatives. Soy, coconut and almond drinks, for example, are common sights on the shelves.
According to Innova Market Insights, the plant drink market is set to top £16bn this year. Here, we take a look at five of the newer possibilities in terms of flavour and nutrition.
There’s already almond and tiger nut, but now peanuts are peeping in on the action. Peanut is a great source of protein and, when consumed as a drink, it has a protein content just slightly lower than cow’s milk.
Also locked away inside the legume are healthy fats and a range of vitamins and minerals, as well as beneficial phenolic compounds.
The flavour of peanut drink, unsurprisingly, can be quite beany or ‘peanut-y,’ although it’s possible to make this more appealing using technical interventions during the processing.
It’s not enough to put it in salads, quinoa is now making an appearance in the dairy aisle.
Quinoa is higher in nutrients than most other grains and is a great source of protein. When turned into a drink, it’s slightly nutty and still relatively protein rich, but only contains half as much as cows' milk.
It boasts important minerals such as magnesium, iron, copper, manganese, zinc and phosphorus, and has a low glycaemic index.
What is the definition of milk?
In June 2017, the European Court of Justice ruled that the term ‘milk’ is reserved only for milk of animal origin.
As a result, the term ‘milk’ cannot be used to market any plant-based alternatives, although coconut milk is included in the list of exemptions to this rule.
It’s always been a good bun topper, but sesame seeds are also a great source of protein with a unique balance of amino acids.
The seeds contain a variety of polyphenols, including lignans, which have antioxidant, anti-carcinogenic and antiviral properties.
Sesame drinks can taste quite bitter and chalky, although roasting and soaking the seeds during processing can improve the flavour.
While pea drink may not be the most appealing name, it does appear to be one of the few plant-based beverages that has a similar amount of protein to cow’s milk.
Drinks made with peas can have a rather unappealing legume flavour, but just like peanuts, advances in processing are leading to a much improved, consumer-acceptable taste.
- Cow’s milk is a great source of protein and is packed with nutrients such as calcium, phosphorous, potassium, iodine and vitamin B12 that the body can easily absorb.
- No single plant-based drink is comparable to cow’s milk in terms of nutrition.
- Therefore, plant-based drinks that have been fortified with vitamins and minerals may be more enticing to consumers, preferably unsweetened.
Although hemp seeds are a great source of fibre and other nutrients, when they are processed into a drink, some of the nutrition can be stripped away.
However, this drink does contain some good essential fatty acids, omega-3 and omega-6, which gives it quite a creamy taste and makes it a useful ingredient when baking.
Hemp is being used in salads, soups and pizza bases already, so why not in a milk alternative?
Other plant-based alternatives to look out for
There are many other options that can be prepared. Ones to keen an eye on include spelt, lupin, cowpea, walnut and pistachio. There are also ones made with flax, sunflower seed, teff, and amaranth, to name a few more.
Blends of different plant sources (e.g. legumes, cereals and nuts) can also be prepared to achieve a drink with an appealing flavour and improved nutritional profile.