Gone are the days when the most complicated choice you had to make in the milk section of the dairy aisle was reduced fat or whole. Now, you’ll find carton after carton of dairy-like beverages made from foods you never thought could be “milked” — almonds, oats, rice, peas.

While cow’s milk is still the most popular according to retail sales, nondairy alternatives hit an estimated $2.95 billion last year, up 54 percent from five years earlier, according to the market research firm Mintel.

These plant-based alternatives are typically made by soaking the legume, nut, grain or other main ingredient and then pressing and straining the liquid, or “milk.” Many people prefer them because they want or need to avoid dairy, but some choose them because they believe they are healthier than cow’s milk. Some experts urge consumers to look beyond the hype and to examine the nutrition label, however, because some may not be as healthful as they seem.

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