Monday, October 8, 2018

Got mylk? Our new audit shines light on the growing plant-based milk category


The trend for plant-based foods is bigger than ever, with vegan, vegetarian and flexitarian diets all gaining popularity alongside the increasing importance of a sustainable food future. One category that’s seeing record growth is plant-based milk - with the global plant-based milk market expected to surpass $16bn later this year. Traditionally occupying the top spot in non-dairy milks, soy is now facing increasing competition from a number of other nut, grain and legume milks. So what’s new in the Australian milk category? 

Our new audit has revealed category growth of a staggering 58% in number of products in the last two years, but Australians buying plant-based ‘mylks’ should be aware that not all products are nutritionally equal.

We captured 112 products on shelf in the four major supermarkets, including nut milks, grain milks (oat, rice), legume milks (soy, pea), coconut milks and mixes, whilst also reviewing all on-pack nutrition information.

Since our last plant-based milk audit in 2016, the number of coconut milk products has more than doubled with 220% growth, nut milks have increased by 90% and even the well-established legume milk category has grown by 36%. But compared to dairy milk, the Grains & Legumes Nutrition Council’s Nutrition Manager Felicity Curtain said some plant-based milks don’t stack up nutritionally, with many falling short on valuable calcium and protein.

“30% of products did not mention calcium on-pack, suggesting they weren’t fortified with the important mineral. While those that were fortified had consistent amounts, it highlights the importance of checking labels to be confident in the choice you’re making.”

According to Accredited Practising Dietitian Joel Feren, achieving equivalence in terms of calcium content should be a focus for industry.

“Encouraging dairy alternatives to include calcium makes sense to consumers, who expect it to be in a product that is replacing calcium-rich cow’s milk”.

When it came to protein, legume milks like soy were the only plant-based milk that were consistently comparable to dairy milk, with around 3g protein per 100ml – up to three times more than that found in nut, grain and coconut milks.

Few Australians fall short on protein however, so it’s possible to enjoy a variety of plant-based milks as part of a healthy, balanced diet.

“Having so many options is great for those avoiding dairy milks but knowing what to look for is key to making a healthy choice and for plant-based milks, that’s generally calcium and protein.”

With so much choice in plant-based milks, it can be difficult knowing what to look for if you need to avoid dairy. So check out our tips for choosing the best plant-based milk for you…
  • If you need to replace dairy milk, then look out for products fortified with calcium and protein on pack.  
  • Aim for at least 200mg of calcium per serve and at least 5g of protein per serve.
  • Choose mostly non-flavoured milk alternatives to reduce intake of free sugars from beverages. 
We run rolling audits of a range of grain and legume foods on shelf in the four major Australian supermarkets (Coles, Woolworths, IGA, ALDI), revisiting major categories biennially - for more details visit our website here. Stay tuned for the results of our next audit on Breakfast Cereals!