Products labeled ‘plant-based’ or ‘non-dairy’ are often marketed to consumers as “healthy” and “environmentally” friendly - but is this always the case? One of the most popular ingredients found in Non-Dairy milk was carrageenan, “an additive used to thicken, emulsify, and preserve foods and drinks (Healthline).” Carrageenan is commonly found in dairy and non-dairy products such as nut milks, chocolate milk, and yogurt. Manufacturers often used carrageenan to help the product stabilize the drink and increase creaminess. Unfortunately, there is growing concern by some consumers that it is linked to negative health effects. Due to the polemical debate in Carrageenan, many brands such as Almond Breeze and Califia Farms, have replaced that component with Gellan Gum, an all-natural vegan food additive composed of soluble fiber, found in processed foods and fortified plant milks.
Does the use of these additives make a perceivable difference in taste? According to the data analyzed by Gastrograph AI - it does. Despite being “healthier” and providing benefits, Gellan Gum products ranked the lowest in PQ for all Non-dairy products.
Table 1 delineates four different milks, two that hold the ingredient Gellan Gum, and two without. Although these products obtain other varying factors that may affect its PQ score such as sweetness and different nut components, the overall theme is Gellan Gums are lower in driving preference.
The best tasting Non-Dairy milk as we uncovered in the last post was The Original Oatly! It held drivers of preference that include ‘wet’ and ‘dairy’ notes with just under 50% of the population giving it a PQ score of 5 out of 7. This product’s ingredients include Oat base (water, oats 10%), rapeseed oil, calcium carbonate, calcium phosphates, iodized salt, and vitamins (D2, riboflavin, B12).
Meanwhile, the lowest-scoring Non-Dairy milk that contained Gellan Gum is Silk Unsweetened Organic Soy Milk it held ingredients of Organic Soymilk (Filtered Water, Organic Soybeans), Vitamin and Mineral Blend (Calcium Carbonate, Vitamin A Palmitate, Vitamin D2, Riboflavin [B2], Vitamin B12), Sea Salt, Gellan Gum, Ascorbic Acid (To protect freshness), and Natural Flavor.
What does this mean? So what really is the best ingredient/additive for Non-Dairy milk?
It turns out - less is more. The products with fewer additives proved to be the most preferred in this study. Consumer demand for clean labels led manufacturers to innovate products with simple ingredients and great tastes.