Non-Dairy milk alternatives

Over the past decade, major research emphasis in all sections of food product development is to meet the present demands of consumer and to address the changing needs by creating alternative of health foods. These demands have accelerated due to increasing urbanization.

The recent trend is concerted research effort in functional and specialty beverage for newer products. Nowadays, beverages are not only the thirst quenchers, consumers also look for specific functionality in them, which forms a part of their lifestyle.

Functionality in these beverages may be to address different needs and lifestyles to boost energy, fight ageing, fatigue and stress, target specific diseases and the sector is still expanding. One such major functional requirement of milk alternatives is to answer problems of cow milk allergy, lactose intolerance, calorie concern and prevalence of hypercholesterolemia [1].

According to research by the U.S. National Library of Medicine (2020), 65% of the world population and 70–100% of people in East Asia suffer from lactose intolerance. It also occurs in west African, Arab Jewish, Greek, and Italian populations. People also choose non-dairy milk substitutes for some health-related reasons as heavy consumption of animal-based foods causes cardiovascular diseases and an increase in cholesterol [2]

So, the consumption of non-dairy milk has been increased due to absence of cholesterol and lactose, making it suitable for a group of population suffering from lactose intolerance and heart disease. [2]

In western countries, the use of non-dairy milk alternatives is well established not only as a beverage, but has been extensively utilized in recipes as an ingredient. Hence, there is a great scope for exploring non-dairy alternatives.[1]

Market Scenario

Global market demand for non-dairy milk alternatives recorded more than US$12 billion in 2019 and is estimated to attain more than 11% CAGR up to 2026, with the widespread awareness regarding the nutritional benefits of vegan diet.

Globally dominant non-dairy milk with respect to market shares is soy milk. The highest consumption of non-dairy milk is in the Asian-Pacific area [3].

Popular trends like veganism and concern for animal and environmental prosperity reflected in food blogs and social media are the main reasons leading to the increasing sales of non-dairy milk substitutes. [2]


Non-dairy milk alternatives are fluids that result from breakdown (size reduction) of plant material (cereals, pseudo-cereals, legumes oilseeds, nuts) extracted in water and further homogenization of such fluids, results in particle size distribution in range of 5–20 µm which imitates cow’s milk in appearance and consistency. A general classification of the non-dairy alternatives into five categories is as follows:

(a) Cereal based: Oat milk, Rice milk, Corn milk, Spelt milk.

(b) Legume based: Soy milk, Peanut milk, Lupin milk, Cowpea milk.

(c) Nut based: Almond milk, Coconut milk, Hazelnut milk, Pistachio milk, Walnut milk.

(d) Seed based: Sesame milk, Flax milk, Hemp milk, Sunflower milk.

(e) Pseudo-cereal based: Quinoa milk, Teff milk, Amaranth milk [1]

Soy milk

Soy milk is a popular alternative to dairy milk. The milk available in different brands will have a slightly different composition, based on the flavor, whether it is sweetened, or contains any additional vitamins and minerals that manufacturers have added in the fortification process.

Soy milk is unique in that it contains isoflavones, which are natural antioxidants which may have associations with a reduced risk of heart disease. It may also be beneficial for women during and after menopause. Soy provides compounds called phytoestrogens, which may mimic the activity of estrogen in the body and these compounds may help relieve some of the effects of menopause without severe adverse effects.

Almond milk

Ground almonds, water, and, in most cases, a sweetener make almond milk, another popular alternative which is sometimes fortified with vitamins and minerals. Similar to that of dairy milk, it has a creamy texture. It contains a high amount of vitamin E. Cashew, hazelnut, and walnut milk are other types of nut milk. However, the one who has an allergy should check the label before consuming it.

Coconut milk

Coconut milk works well in baked goods because of its nutty flavor. Its nutritional profile is different from that of the dairy milk but has a similar texture. Used as an ingredient in number of sweet and savory recipes. Because of high fat content it is generally used in curries as a thickener to give body to the product. It’s also known for number of health benefits like anti-carcinogenic, anti-microbial, anti-bacterial, and anti-viral.

Rice milk

Rice milk is boiled rice, brown rice syrup, and brown rice starch. It is high in carbohydrates and the number of calories will depend on whether sweeteners are added or not. It is not ideal for use in cooking or baking as it is often quite thin and watery. This type of milk is not naturally rich in calcium. Anyone intending to replace cow’s milk with rice might consider choosing a calcium-fortified variety.

Plant milk made with potato

Consumer acceptance

Experience of a new food depends on a number of criteria: a good or familiar taste, the nutritional information, the health benefits, and the environmental aspects of the product. All criteria have an impact on increasing or decreasing the public’s willingness to try a new food.

Therefore, developing the sensory and quality of non-dairy milk substitutes could be a key factor in the increasing awareness of the product. However, two main problems with non-dairy alternatives are, a final product having “beany” or “painty” off-flavor due to lipoxygenase activity, and a chalky mouthfeel caused by insoluble large particles.

A study regarding extrinsic factors and personal values that affect the purchasing of beverage product in other categories indicated that, when choosing the non-dairy milk substitute category, the sugar level, the non-dairy source, and the packaging size were important factors

Additionally, the price of non-dairy milk substitutes is higher than cow’s milk since the production cost of non-dairy milk substitutes is higher. This causes the inventory turnover ratio of non-dairy milk substitutes to become lower. Therefore, the taste should be improved in a way that satisfies the preferences of consumers but at the same time keeps the health benefits. [2]

New Processing Challenges with Plant-Based Beverages


  • Manufacturing a broader range of beverages containing allergenic ingredients, such as soy, tree nut, or gluten proteins, significantly increases the risk of allergen cross-contamination and associated recalls from mislabeling.
  • The processing challenges exists due to physiological composition of non-dairy milk alternatives as the composition and structure of raw milk are significantly different from plant-derived materials
  • Consumers expect non-dairy milk alternatives to have similar physiochemical and sensory attributes including the creaminess, mouthfeel, and color, the way these beverages react when used in cold and hot temperatures.
  • These alternatives have their own negative health effects including lack of protein content, low bioavailability of minerals and vitamins, and oral health problems, where the low bioavailability of vitamins and minerals due to some anti-nutrients and polyphenols, can be overcome by fermentation [2]


[1] Sethi S, Tyagi SK, Anurag RK. Plant-based milk alternatives an emerging segment of functional beverages: a review. J Food Sci Technol. 2016;53(9):3408-3409.

[2] Aydar. E.F, Tutuncu S, Ozcelik B. Plant-based milk substitutes: Bioactive compounds, conventional and novel processes, bioavailability studies, and health effects. Journal of Functional Foods. 2020; 70: 1-2

[3] Haas, Rainer & Schnepps, Alina & Pichler, Anni & Meixner, Oliver. Cow Milk versus Plant-Based Milk Substitutes: A Comparison of Product Image and Motivational Structure of Consumption. Sustainability. 2019; 11. 5046

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1 thought on “Non-Dairy milk alternatives”

  1. Mustafa Vora

    I have a ready proposal on production of Bovine milk using precision fermentation which is more nutritious and similar in sensory attributes.

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