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Coconut, soy, oat, almond, cashew. As consumers continue to opt for a variety of choices in “milk” beverages, the dairy industry is fighting to protect the word “milk,” which is narrowly defined as “lacteal secretions from cows.” To add to the confusion, goat and sheep products seem to get a pass for using the word “milk.” Also at issue is whether all products labeled milk need to be nutritionally equivalent to cow’s milk.
Those on the plant-based side argue that consumers are savvy enough to understand which liquids come from cows and which liquids come from nuts and other plants. They also contend that consumers are looking for non-dairy milklike products that offer different nutritional values than milk can. And the options for other terms – “cultured almond products,” “treenut cheese” – don’t exactly roll off the tongue.
Foodnavigator.com is paying close attention to how the Food and Drug Administration will rule on the Dairy Pride Act, a bill urging prohibition of the word “milk” in plant-based products because it can mislead customers. The only thing the two sides seem to agree on is that the FDA is in no hurry to add clarity to the matter.
As the debate carries on, the dairy industry is emphasizing how traditional milk can compete with all of the many other ready-to-drink options on the market, from nut liquids to classic soft drinks and niche items like kombucha and kefir. Recent brand initiatives align milk with sports nutrition and recovery and recommend combining proteins for sustained energy. Whatever the FDA decides, consumer demand is showing there’s plenty of room for a variety of milklike substances in the market.
- Inclusive milk options at in-store coffee and smoothie bars
- Samples of plant-based milks, cheeses and yogurts so shoppers can compare them
- Chocolate milk cross-merchandised with other high-protein snacks, like nuts and cheese, for amateur athletes