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Before I even knew what plant-based milk meant, there was soy milk. My mom kept single-serving Silk® chocolate milk on hand for me as a treat, and I even got a splash of her soy milk in my cereal on occasion. I craved the unique and creamy flavor, but the mission behind plant-based milk was lost on my elementary school self. More than a decade later, my fellow classmates and I have grown alongside the nutrition movement, becoming health-conscious foodies with sustainability on the brain.

Until about 2008, soy was the only milk alternative widely available to consumers. Today, the plant-based milk industry is considered to be worth roughly $16 billion, with about 20 different plant options in the mix*. What may have begun as an endeavor for lactose-intolerant consumers quickly blossomed into an all-out health movement.

The produce industry seems to be situated smack dab in the middle of this movement, offering alternatives like plant-based protein substitutes, vegan dressings, and condiments. Innovations surrounding the health craze have begun to diversify the produce department, making it one of the most inclusive areas in retail. Now, our industry is reaching towards non-traditional produce destinations like the dairy section, meat department, and health food aisle with items like plant-based milks.

Today, the plant-based milk industry is considered to be worth roughly $16 billion with about 20 different plant

options in the mix*.

Amongst the most popular dairy alternatives are soy, almond, cashew, and coconut milk. To turn those plants into milk-like substances, manufacturers grind them down, add water and nutrients, and sometimes incorporate additional sweeteners or flavors. While many alternatives are a healthier choice in terms of calories and sugars, they lack some of the protein and vitamins that make dairy milk so valuable, so, keep an eye on your protein intake, friends!

For this reason, plant-based milks have primarily been used to cut dairy out of recipes where it isn’t needed, such as in smoothies, oatmeal, and desserts. The newest star of the category is an alternative milk made from oats. The product took the industry by storm just a few years ago, spearheaded by a major brand, Oatly, that continues to face shortages due to extremely high demand. Consumers are enthralled by this new alternative because it’s enriched with minerals like calcium, vitamins B12 and D, and phosphorus, all of which are key differentiators for the dairy category.

As soon as your local grocer restocks its oat milk, jump in by whipping up a banana and oat milk smoothie, a baked berry oatmeal, or apple oat muffins! While it usually won’t be a perfect replacement for dairy, the creamy alternative mixes beautifully with a wide array of fruits, and maybe even some vegetables if you’re crafty. No matter the makeup, each new effort that explodes in the industry brings us that much closer to understanding each other’s needs. So, what’s the harm in trying?


*Via The Guardian