Coffee with plant-based NotMilk. | Scott Suchman The Washington Post
Coffee with plant-based NotMilk. | Scott Suchman The Washington Post

The search for the perfect plant-based milk alternative for your coffee

By Buhle Mbonambi Time of article published Jun 17, 2021

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A few years ago, telling the world that you were trying a plant-based diet, was met with scoffing and eye-rolling.

“Good luck finding anything delicious to eat or drink,” went the response before the sniggers continued.

I was one of those people. I would roll my eyes and quickly change the topic of conversation because I felt like we didn’t need to talk about it. That is until I realised that I was slowly losing my tolerance for dairy products and not as excited about eating meat all the time.

I started consuming less dairy and ate more plant-based versions of my favourite meat products. When you have a health scare that forces you to change your diet and limit your consumption of meat by-products, an open-minded approach is necessary.

The plant-based movement has grown over the years. This is evident in how much easier it is becoming to source plant-based products in mainstream supermarkets these days. While the prices leave one with whiplash, the health benefits are worth it.

We also care about the production process of the food we eat.

“Consumers are increasingly curious and proactive about where and how their beverages are created, and they see plants playing a stronger role in driving trial and repeat,” Matt Sabo, the owner and chief executive of Slipstream Innovation said in a Brison Group trend report last year.

Beyond it being just a fad, consumers want to improve their health. A plant-based lifestyle is one way of doing that.

Last year, Imbibe reported that consumers would continue to pay closer attention to what was in their food. That went from macronutrients to choosing foods that helped them maintain a healthy weight and boosted immunity.

That’s easily found in food, but what about beverages?

I’m a coffee fiend and while I am cutting down on my dairy, I am struggling with plant-based milk. I do not eat nuts and coconut, and I prefer my oats as a porridge (or blitzed in a smoothie). I, like many others, didn’t enjoy the plant-based milk with coffee or cereal.

Plant-based lifestyle influencer, Dhanusha Dhoorgalu is one of them. She is part of an influencer campaign for Nescafé Gold’s vegan lattes made with coconut, almond and oat milk. She is lactose sensitive and loves a good cup of creamy, coffee in the morning.

“To be honest, I don't enjoy plant-based milk in my coffee,” Dhoorgalu said. “It has never tasted great to me but I have missed having lattes and for me, this is the most convenient to my latte craving. This is exactly that and it's not too sweet. If you love foam, try the oat-flavoured one, its my favourite. You also get the foam and it's delicious! Also, it only has one teaspoon of sugar which is great for health-conscious people.”

The search for the perfect plant-based milk has been ongoing for a long time. We have been searching for plant-based milk that’s as close to cow's milk as possible.

The Washington Post reports that NotCo, a start-up founded in Chile, has possibly found the solution. In 2019, scientists there developed artificial intelligence technology to find plants that could function like cow's milk at a molecular level. They have found this in two unlikely ingredients – pineapple and cabbage.

“The product, called NotMilk, uses more than a dozen ingredients, including chicory root fibre, coconut oil and pea protein, to make what the packaging calls a ‘plant-based milk alternative’.”

Plant-based NotMilk, in whole and low-fat varieties. Scott Suchman The Washington Post

The Post also reports that Impossible Foods announced it was investing more toward developing its own faux dairy-milk prototype and NotMilk was charting a new course in the industry: claiming to make vegan milk that can taste, cook and froth like cow's milk – much like imitation-meat makers did with beef a few years ago.

Nestlé has recently launched its premium Nescafé gold plant-based, non-dairy lattes in South Africa. Picture: Supplied

The recent influencer campaign by Nescafé Gold, which highlighted its plant-based alternative milk latte sachet collection, targeted those who want their coffee on the go without worrying about calories and dealing with the health issues that come with cow’s milk.

“More and more consumers are starting to lead plant-based lifestyles in general and not only when it comes to coffee consumption. As a result, we have already seen quite an increase in plant-based alternative products in the markets. The milk category is no exception to that with a wide variety of plant-based milk now available,” says Nescafé.

“While many consumers have been drinking coffee with plant-based milk products, there hasn’t been any vegan/plant-based instant coffee products in the markets that also allows for convenience. Our range is perfect for those following a vegan diet as it offers that convenience by being available in a sachet that can be popped into a handbag and enjoyed anywhere but it also delivers a smooth, creamy café-style latte which is plant-based and vegan-friendly.”

In a November 2020 report, Tasting The Future predicted that there would be be a bigger focus on getting plant-based milk alternatives perfect for consumers and that oat milk sales would continue to rise rapidly and outstrip growth of other plant-based milks throughout this year.

Meanwhile, Starbucks has also made inroads in creating more beverages using plant-based milk alternatives. In the UK, Starbucks launched it Original Nut Blend. It is made using milk made from rice, hazelnuts and cashew nuts which can be added to any drink for a creamy non-dairy milk experience.

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