GLOBAL – Only 12% of the milk alternatives have a comparable or greater amount of nutrients calcium, vitamin D, and protein, compared to that found in cow’s milk, research reveals.
According to Fortune Business Insights, the plant-based milk alternatives category has boomed over the past decade with the market value expected to reach US$69 billion by 2030.
The primary reason according to many consumers to switch from conventional milk to its plant-based alternative most commonly made from oats, soy, or almonds is linked to health.
A food and nutrition global expert at Euromonitor International indicated that most consumers perceive plant-based milk alternatives to be healthier compared to conventional milk.
Research findings revealed that compared to cow’s milk, just 12% of the PBMAs contained comparable or greater amounts of all three nutrients studied: calcium, vitamin D, and protein.
Only 16% of the milk alternatives studied had a protein level greater than or equivalent to the 8g per 240 ml found in cow’s milk. Soy- and pea-based milk alternatives were more likely to contain higher protein levels.
“Our results provide evidence that many plant-based milk alternatives are not nutritionally equivalent to cow’s milk,” said Abigail Johnson, assistant professor and associate director of the University of Minnesota School of Public Health Nutrition Coordinating Center, who presented the findings.
The study, which was supported by the Nutrition Coordinating Center at the University of Minnesota, also took notice of fortification in PBMAs.
In addition, the researchers found that of the 223 products examined, 170 were fortified with both calcium and vitamin D and that the level of fortification tended to be similar to cow’s milk.
According to the findings total of 76% of oat milk, 69% of soy milk, and 66% of almond milk alternatives were fortified with both calcium and vitamin D.
A research study done by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also found that almost all plant-based kinds of milk have lower amounts of the four micronutrients, except for milk substitutes made from pea protein, which contain similar levels to cow’s milk.
Plant milks are often naturally lower in calcium and iodine, but may be fortified with these nutrients, and producers in the US are required to state their concentration on the packaging.
“But levels of some other minerals, including magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, and selenium, aren’t required to be on the label and yet milk and other dairy products are usually a major source of them in the US diet,” said Benjamin Redan of the FDA.
Other than the pursuit of health and wellness by consumers, plant-based milk is set for growth as the majority of raw materials used in production are widely available in the region.
However, in another study, which was presented at the American Chemical Society Fall 2022 event, researchers took a look at the mineral content of various plant-based milk options, the same as the FDA’s study.
Not only did they find that both pea and soy milk had higher levels of these minerals when compared to cow’s milk, but pea milk had 50% higher levels of phosphorus, zinc, and selenium than milk from a cow.