Dairy is Wary as Plant Based Milk is on the Rise

We have been stocking plant based milk options pretty much forever, but this year we’ve stepped up our game adding coconut and oat milk to our selection (to join soya and almond).  

Manufacturers have done a much better job of creating milk designed for use in coffee too with Alpro and Oatly both offering ‘Barista’ ranges.  These milks in particular seem to be more stable for steaming and pouring so we can now make better looking drinks as well as great tasting ones.

Oat milk specifically seems to be enjoying something of a boom.  We’ve noticed it anecdotally in the cafe.

Why this increase in plant based milk usage and what questions does it raise?…..read on.

Veganism

Banner of vegetables and a vegan badge - plant based milks feature in many vegan recipes

Veganism is officially a thing.  

The Vegan Society published figures in 2016 suggesting there were 540,000 vegans living in the UK at that time.  Fast forward to April 2018 and a survey from Compare The Market has 7% (3.5 million) of the population identifying as vegan.

168,000 people officially signed up to try ‘Veganuary’ in 2018 compared to 3,300 people in its first year in 2014.

Unsurprisingly this is clearly a contributing factor increasing our use of alternative milks.  Baltzersen’s is an inclusive venue and we’ve been working hard to offer a range of food and drink options throughout the day for our vegan guests.   

In terms of food for a small place like ours the holy grail is creating dishes and products that can exist alongside our core range and are as tempting for vegans and non-vegans alike.

Health

Milk bottles with walnits on a dish in front. Nuts make up a lot of plant based milk options.

We have a few members of our team that drink oat milk for dietary or health reasons rather than it being a choice based on welfare or other factors.

There are a few differences between whole milk, oat milk and other plant-based alternatives so we thought it might be useful to put the numbers alongside one another.

Typical values
(per 100ml)
Acorn Dairy
Organic
Whole Milk
Acorn Dairy
Organic
Skimmed Milk
Oatly Barista
Oat
Milk
Energy 282kJ 148kj 247kJ
68kcal 35kcal 59kcal
Fat 4.0g 0.3g 3g
of which saturates 2.6g 0.1g 0.3g
Carbohydrate 4.7g 4.9g 6.6g
of which sugars 4.7g 2.9g 4g
Protein 3.4g 3.6g 1g
Salt 0.1g 0.1g 0.1g
Fibre N/A N/A 0.8g

 

Typical values
(per 100ml)
Alpro Soya
Milk for
Professionals
Alpro Almond
Milk for
Professionals
Alpro Coconut
Milk for
Professionals
Energy 177kj 124kj 139kj
42kcal 24kcal 33kcal
Fat 1.9g 1.2g 1.4g
of which saturates 0.3g 0.1g 0.7g
Carbohydrate 2.7g 2.6g 3.3g
of which sugars 2.5g 2.5g 3.3g
Protein 3.3g 0.5g 1.5g
Salt 0.1g 0.1g 0.1g
Fibre 0.6g 0.3g 0.2g

‘Healthy’ is a broad term.  Many of us have different definitions and most of us aren’t dietitians so a big discussion about the science behind it all isn’t something we want to get into. 

If you are interested in food science can we at this stage wholeheartedly recommend heading over to The Angry Chef for some grade-A debunking and **WARNING** quite a lot of F-Bombs.

Fashion

There is no getting away from it, sometimes being alternative is ‘cool’ (you can tell Paul is writing this from the modern language he’s using, nice one Dad).

via GIPHY

Choosing a plant based milk does seem to carry a certain cachet for some of our guests irrespective of the reasons behind the choice…..we’re cool with that.

Who should pay?

There is no getting away from the fact that all the alternative milks are more expensive than cow’s milk.  They can cost as much as 2.5x as much.  At the moment cafes like Baltzersen’s and many others are absorbing the cost if consumption becomes more widespread then that will need to be examined.

We’ve whipped around some of the options in Harrogate Town Centre on your behalf and the good news is that your indie outlets (Bean and Bud, LMDC, Baltzersen’s, Starling) are all offering a choice of alternative milks with no extra charge.  If you head to the chains the story is slightly different.

We weren’t charged extra for oat milk at Starbucks but at some outlets such as train stations there is a surcharge.  Cafe Nero and Costa offer soya milk without extra charge but at Nero oat milk was a 40p surcharge and at Costa coconut milk (no oat available) was 45p extra.

There are lots of arguments as to why some cafes/coffee shops are prepared to absorb the cost.  Catering for guests with special dietary requirements is important because this is a growing market and it’s not being served universally well.  If you can create an attractive food and drink offering that appeals to niche markets then you can attract some serious business.

Which Plant Based Milk tastes best?

Well, that’s of course completely down to personal taste.  We decided to taste test the 4 options we serve as a regular latte.

Four regular lattes made with different plant based milk options

Almond Milk.  You definitely need to like almonds and their marzipan flavour if you’re going to drink almond milk.  Whilst some of the other milks are quite neutral heating the milk seems to bring the flavour forward to the front of the palate and it diminishes on the finish.

Coconut Milk.  The nut milks (we know that technically the coconut isn’t a nut) are developing along a theme, and the unmistakeable flavour of coconut was always going to shine through.  We also judged coconut milk to be the sweetest tasting of the four followed by almond milk.  The coconut flavour is evident from the smell of the drink all the way through to a lingering finish.

Oat Milk.  Oat milk is without doubt the biggest growth milk at Baltzersen’s right now and we can see why it’s popular in coffee because we’d judge it to be the most neutral.  There does seem to be a thicker mouthfeel from the oat milk, but strangely it didn’t maintain it’s microfoam as well as the other three options.

It should be noted that oat milk is not Gluten Free so if you suffer from a gluten affliction, depending on your sensitivity, you should choose another alternative.

Soya Milk.  It’s feels like soya has been the default option for such a long time and it’s now suffering from the developments within the market.  The soya had little discernible flavour but suffered from a vegetal after taste, from our point of view it was the least satisfying drink from a taste perspective.

Summary

It’s great that companies have put the money and time into creating plant based milk that baristas can use to create delicious tasting and looking drinks so that nobody has to miss out any longer.

Whatever milk you choose and for whatever reason we, and a number of other venues, are happy to provide that for you at the same price as cow’s milk.  If consumption spikes significantly all businesses will need to keep that under review.

We look forward to preparing your plant based milk drink of choice in the cafe soon.

 

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