Fad or Future

How does quinoa compare to other dairy alternatives?

The plant-based milk scene is expanding all the time, with a company linked to Oatly preparing to launch a new option.

21 November 2019

In the world of milk alternatives, the old gang of soya and almond are increasingly being thrust aside by new-wave options. According to research released by Mintel in July 2019, oat-based drinks were the fastest-growing option between 2017 and 2018, up 71% compared to the 16% of its nearest rival, coconut. 

While the plant-based ‘dairy’ sector might only make up around 4% of volume sales, more than a quarter of those aged 16-24 claim they no longer drink cow’s milk.

Next year will see a new entry into this churning category. Swebol Biotech, a company that was spun off from runaway success Oatly, has partnered with a team of Bolivian scientists to develop a quinoa-based powder to use in a range of applications, including plant-based milk.

Dubbed Quiny, it is made from organic royal white quinoa and will boast a sugar-free clean label consisting of just water, rapeseed oil, calcium carbonate, pectin, salt and, of course, quinoa.

“Quinoa starch is really rich, so we utilise the starch and, by controlling its degradation, we can get a natural sweetness, creaminess and good mouthfeel that can be used for different applications as well as plant milk,” Olof Böök, CEO of Swebol, told Food Spark’s sister service Food Navigator.

While Quiny will not be the first entrant into the quinoa ‘milk’ market, the fact that it comes from the same minds behind Oatly lends it pedigree. The brand will launch solely in Latin America early next year, as it secures supply chains in Bolivia. Part of the appeal is meant to centre on the sustainability of its sourcing, with the final product certified organic and fair trade.

Protein powerhouse

While for now Swebol has emphasised the localness of the product – Latin American quinoa for a Latin American product launch – there’s every reason to believe it could do well in the UK if the founders elect to explore European markets.

Last year, registered nutritionist Dr. Laura Wyness suggested quinoa could be one of the milk alternative stars of the future, noting that it is higher in nutrients that most other grains and is a great source of protein – part of the reason the ingredient was originally labelled a ‘superfood’ in the mainstream media.

“It boasts important minerals such as magnesium, iron, copper, manganese, zinc and phosphorus, and has a low glycaemic index,” she wrote in an article for Food Spark.  

Böök claimed that Quiny’s patented manufacturing process makes these nutrients more bioavailable than when the grain is boiled, meaning they are easier for the body to absorb.

The addition of rapeseed oil and calcium is designed to make the plant-based beverage more closely resemble the nutritional profile of cow’s milk.

Attempting to deliver added health benefits while replicating the capabilities of dairy is also the strategy of ChickP. The Israeli start-up announced just this week that it has developed a chickpea-based product that is 90% pure protein, created for use as a plant-based alternative to milk – either directly or as part of a product recipe. The company recently scaled up production so it can begin supplying to the wider market.

We’ve already seen pea drink from The Mighty Society and a hemp-seed-based alternative from Good Hemp, but could quinoa be the next cream of the crop?


Sparkie says:

Every year when the trend articles appear, a large section of them are usually given over to determining what the next faux-milk product might be. There is usually no definite consensus though. Quinoa milk will have as much potential as any of the others that come out alongside it.

At this point, I think the main selling point will be products that taste good, as this segment of the market is already fairly full of alternatives that are tolerated out of necessity rather than actually liked. If quinoa milk manages to make this jump, it could do quite well.

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