Plant-based milk is big business and getting bigger as consumers seek alternatives to dairy products. But some in the USA aren’t happy with the term “milk” being used.
These products can be made from a variety of sources – for example, rice, pea, almond, soy, wheat, coconut and of course – hemp. Hemp milk products are made by soaking and grinding hemp seed in water, which results in a milky liquid said to have a nutty/creamy flavour. It’s a highly nutritious beverage, but of course doesn’t have the same nutritional profile as the dairy version.
According to Future Market Insights, the global market for plant-based milk is expected to reach a valuation of US$ 19.8 billion this year, with a CAGR of 9.9% from 2023 to 2033.
The growing popularity of plant-based milk isn’t sitting well with everyone – particularly in terms of referring to it as “milk”. There’s been a push from some in the dairy sector to ban the use of the term in the packaging, promotion and marketing of plant based dairy milk alternatives.
Last week, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration weighed in on the issue, announcing draft recommendations for industry on plant-based milk alternatives.
Probably most importantly, the FDA appears to be fine with the term “milk” being used. But it recommends such products include a voluntary nutrient statement communicating how the product compares with dairy milk, based on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service fluid milk substitutes nutrient criteria.
“The draft recommendations issued today should lead to providing consumers with clear labeling to give them the information they need to make informed nutrition and purchasing decisions on the products they buy for themselves and their families,” said FDA Commissioner Robert M. Califf, M.D.
Leading up to these draft recommendations was a consultation process that attracted more than 13,000 comments.
From that process, the FDA determined consumers generally understand plant-based milk alternatives don’t contain milk and they buy it specifically for this reason. However, the FDA is concerned many consumers may not be aware of the nutritional differences.
The Administration is currently accepting comments on the draft guidance, which can be accessed here, until April 24.