In conversation with Davina Shah, Managing Director of The Goods Collective and Co, a health and organic food supplier and distributor in the UAE
Are plant-based milks, such as soy milk, almond milk or oat milk, healthier options?
If you are comparing plant-based milks to be healthier than dairy, then Minor Figures avoids directly pitching against dairy in this way. In general, plant milk is said to be nutritionally dense and healthier, especially if you consider the effects dairy has on the environment and on people with certain health conditions. Minor Figures is an environmentally conscious company that believes in making small adjustments to our daily habits that have a large impact over all. Switching to oat milk and cutting down on animal produce of all kinds — not just dairy — is a very effective way of positively contributing to the environment and your health in general.
The demand for alternative milks is growing —partly because people are choosing a vegan diet or avoiding dairy. What do you think is the reason for this trend?
There’s two reasons in my opinion; either people are vegan for health reasons and so avoid it (if they are lactose intolerant or have hormonal imbalances) or they choose veganism as a lifestyle after understanding the consequences on animals and the effects animal produce has on the environment.
In terms of demand for alternative milks, what are you seeing, and where is the industry going?
It doesn’t look very favourable for the dairy industry globally. Not because of dairy-alternatives, but because consumers desire to steer away from consuming animal products. This is causing some major upsets in the corporate dairy world. Before the end of 2019, the two largest dairy companies in the US both went bust. European dairy company Arla has developed a whole range of dairy-alternative products demonstrating their need for diversification.
We expect to see plenty of innovation within the dairy alternative category over the coming years, with new sustainable crops being used to produce delicious and nutritious alternatives to milk. The application of dairy alternatives too will develop — ultimately into uses that haven’t been considered for dairy in the past. With companies such as Beyond Meat and Impossible Burgers who have done amazing things in the meat world, the same goes for the alternative milk category.
What should people look for when buying non-dairy milk?
I feel it comes down to what purpose it is being used for, what nutritional need is to be met and taste preference. Almond milk is low in calories but low in protein too and maybe hard to digest. Soy milk is rich in protein and vitamin content but it is not as popular due to soy being an allergen and its effects on hormones. Coconut milk is safe to use for people with nut allergies but it can be an acquired taste and difficult to digest for some people. Oat milk is our favourite, having experienced it first hand with Minor Figures. It is mild, creamy and has an appealing flavour that makes it good for cereals and hot drinks such as a coffee. Oat milk is more environmentally friendly and uses less water. However, Oat milk is not suitable for people with gluten intolerance.
What is the best milk alternative to cook with (for things like mashed potatoes)?
Not to be biased, but oat milk.