Ohio Farmer

Plant-based milks are adding more choices.

Jennifer Kiel, Editor, Michigan Farmer

January 17, 2018

4 Min Read
CHOICES: Soy, almond and coconut milks are just the beginning of a more diverse variety of non-dairy based milks coming on the market.woman looking in milk case

Standing in front of the grocer’s dairy section, milk choices have traditionally been whole milk, reduced-fat (2%), low-fat (1%), fat-free milk and chocolate.

How can something so uncomplicated become complicated? I cite the millennials for their incessant need for more choices.

Change and choices have their place, but milk seems to have been robbed of its title. There is now a vast array of “milks” out there, and the choices are growing.

Most everyone has heard of almond, rice, coconut and soy milk, which are the most popular dairy-free milks on the market. But now there are so many more. Some I never heard of until recently when several reports outlined predictions for top food items and trends for 2018.

To some degree, it wasn’t really surprising. The reports all predict there will be an ever-increasing focus on locally grown foods and beverages, as well as an increasing interest in healthy eating and the need for food transparency throughout the food system. People want to know where and who grew their food and how it was brought to the table.

There is also an increasing demand for “ethnic foods” or foods new to the general American palate.

The millennials have spoken with their wallets, and they’re saying, “We’re not afraid to try new things.”

I’m not sure that means chocolate-covered ants are going to become a sensation, but millennials, and the population in general, are making more food decisions based well beyond taste. Emphasis is shifting to how best to fuel the body with energy, while providing nutrition to keep it running well into the future.

Pea milk?

Getting back to milk, I discovered there are also oat, flax seed, quinoa and hemp milks (made from the seed). There are also more nut-based drinks coming from macadamia, hazelnut and cashews.

One article identifying healthy foods going mainstream cited pea milk and golden milk as the new “up-and-comers.”

Pea milk is the latest dairy alternative popular with vegans. It’s a nut-free option for lactose-intolerant consumers or those with a nut allergy. Its claim to fame is that it’s better for the environment than almond milk, which requires a tremendous amount of water for production. And it has more protein and calcium than other alternative milks.

One brand I’ve seen in Walmart is Bolthouse Farms Non-Dairy Plant Milk Protein. It’s made from peas, and boasts no preservatives or artificial flavors with 90 calories per cup and 10 grams of protein. It also offers 20% of your vitamin D, 25% of your calcium and 110% of your vitamin B12 needs. Pea milk is made by crushing the pea into flour and then extracting the protein and mixing with water and other goodies.

Pass the turmeric

Golden milk is more of a concoction than a drink derived from a single source. It generally uses coconut, almond or soy milk as a base, and includes ginger, black pepper and the touted turmeric, which is believed to reduce inflammation and support brain and joint health. You may also reap the benefits of ginger, a natural anti-inflammatory, and black pepper, which enhances the absorption and the anti-inflammatory effects of turmeric. Plus, black pepper contains a number of essential nutrients, including manganese, iron and vitamin K, and is commonly used to calm digestive issues.

In Okinawa, Japan, turmeric tea is a staple and some say it may be partly why Okinawans’ average life span is 81.2 years.

Whether or not any of one of these is really “milk” is for the USDA Food and Drug Administration to figure out. Despite pressure from both sides for FDA to weigh in on the plant-based milk labeling controversy, there has been no indication of when FDA will address the issue.

For myself, I might spring for one of these drinks once in a while, but there will always be a gallon of 2% real milk in my fridge. My grandma enjoyed dairy milk, and she lived to be 92.

According to the National Restaurant Association’s survey of approximately 700 professional chefs, who are members of the American Culinary Federation, here are the top 20 foods for 2018:

1. new cuts of meat

2. house-made condiments

3. street-food-inspired dishes

4. ethnic-inspired breakfast items (chorizo, breakfast burritos, etc.)

5. sustainable seafood (Consumers are demanding to know more about where their seafood is coming from and how it is harvested.)

6. healthful kids’ meals (whole grains, fruit, salads and lean protein)

7. vegetable carb substitutes

8. uncommon herbs

9. authentic ethnic cuisine (largely due to millennials with adventurous palates)

10. ethnic spices

11. Peruvian cuisine

12. house-made and artisan pickles

13. heritage-breed meats

14. Thai-rolled ice cream

15. African flavors (increasing demand for international food)

16. ethnic-inspired kids’ dishes

17. doughnuts with nontraditional fillings

18. gourmet items in kids’ meals

19. ethnic condiments

20. ancient grains

About the Author(s)

Jennifer Kiel

Editor, Michigan Farmer

While Jennifer is not a farmer and did not grow up on a farm, "I think you'd be hard pressed to find someone with more appreciation for the people who grow our food and fiber, live the lifestyles and practice the morals that bind many farm families," she says.

Before taking over as editor of Michigan Farmer in 2003, she served three years as the manager of communications and development for the American Farmland Trust Central Great Lakes Regional Office in Michigan and as director of communications with Michigan Agri-Business Association. Previously, she was the communications manager at Michigan Farm Bureau's state headquarters. She also lists 10 years of experience at six different daily and weekly Michigan newspapers on her impressive resume.

Jennifer lives in St. Johns with her two daughters, Elizabeth, 19, and Emily 16.

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