Accordingly to the data from Euromonitor, in the last five years, the consumption of, plant-based dairy alternatives derived from soy, nuts, almonds, oat, coco and so one, registered a 33.5% increase. Due to, not only, the high prevalence of lactose intolerants but also to the consumer awareness that search for plant based alternatives, mainly because of the positive and healthy association that comes across both at a nutritional and environmental level.
Contribution of plant-based dairy alternatives both at nutritional and environmental level
In fact, there is an old heated discussion around the environmental sustainability of plant-based dairy alternatives and takes in account different opinions, there are groups in favor and others against.
A study conducted in 2018 from researchers at University of Oxford concludes that a glass of dairy milk produces almost three times more greenhouse gases and requires nine times more farming land, than any of the existing plant-based dairy alternatives.
Other studies state that to obtain one liter of cow milk, it is necessary 10 more resources than to produce one glass of oat milk. For example, it is necessary nine square meters of farming land and 628 liters of water for each liter of cow milk produced, what translates into 3.2 kg of CO2 emission, in comparison to the 0.9 kg resulting from the oat milk.
Nevertheless, even though it is undeniable that plant-based dairy alternatives are indeed better for the planet, at an environmental level, they also have several disadvantages, mainly social and ecological, since this is the habitat where the crops grow. An example of this is coconut milk.
The coconut tree only grows in tropical climates, normally in less developed countries. The pressure to satisfy the global demand of this fruit is leading to the exploration of workers and deforestation, which is more than enough to the ones that oppose to its consumption. However, the movements that support these products, defend that to avoid the bad practices is not necessary to stop its production but only to do it under regulation and select coconut certified as Fair Trade.
Contrarily, the nutritional topic does not arouse that much controversy…
A vast number of studies highlight that plant-based dairy alternatives, with an exception of horchata, are less caloric than cow milk. For 100 ml of product, cow milk has 67 calories, whereas, rice milk has 50 and almond milk has 24.
In the specific case of plant-based dairy alternatives derived from nuts, such as, almond or hazelnut, it is noteworthy to mention their characteristic nutritional value, marked by a high content in protein, carbohydrates and vitamins, as well as, arginine, which combined with a diet rich in lysine increases the levels of nitric oxide which facilitates the blood flow (Huynh et al. 2006).
In addition, plant-based dairy alternatives have a high content in fatty acids, mono-unsaturated, which reduce the LDL-cholesterol levels, without affecting the content in HDL-cholesterol (Spiller et al. 1992). This lipidic content is related to high concentrations of liposoluble vitamins, like vitamin E, an antioxidant compound, usually used as a reference (Jambazian et al. 2005).
The relation of plant-based dairy alternatives with high pressure
The conventional thermal methods applied in the food industry (e.g. pasteurization or thermal sterilization) can induce negative effects in micronutrients and essential biomolecules of plant-based dairy alternatives. For example, temperature promotes the interaction between amino acids and sugars in a process well-known as Maillard reaction. This covalent union leads to several alterations in color and taste, in addition, diminishes the bioavailability of essential amino acids , since some vitamins, like tocoferol (vitamin E) are degraded (Leskova et al. 2006, Delgado et al. 2014).
Nonetheless, since cold pasteurization by high pressure is used to increase the shelf life of food, most of the negative effects that come with high temperature are avoid, promoting a healthy diet.
High pressure processing (HPP) is a non-thermal technology capable of extending the shelf-life of previously packed food products, inactivating pathogens and degrading microorganisms. It is proved that HPP technology is capable of inactivating more than 6 log CFU/ml of E.coli, Salmonella spp and L. monocytogenes (Elbrhami et al. 2016)
There are not many scientific reports on conservation of nutrients and organoleptic characteristics in plant-based dairy alternatives, due to the recent incorporation of this category of food, or ready to drink beverage (RTD). However, there are studies that demonstrate the efficiency of HPP technology, showing that is capable of extending the shelf life of soy beverages (Jung at al. 2009), in addition, some bioactive compounds, like isoflavones are not affected (Jung et al. 2008).
As far as, organoleptic parameters and accordingly to professional panelist, HPP technology is capable of extending the shelf life of soy milk based smoothies, without causing significant differences in its sensorial profile (Andrés et al. 2016a and 2016b).
Due to the exceptional characteristics that come with plant-based dairy alternatives and the vast possibilities provided by high pressure processing, more and more companies in the world use HPP to extend the product shelf-life, without jeopardizing its organoleptic and nutritional proprieties. Australia and United States are the main producers, nevertheless the popularity and acceptance of this technology increases on a daily basis, leading to the appearance of new brands in the European and Asian market.
If you want more information about out HPP technology or how it could be applied to your products, do not hesitate to contact us, we will be more than glad to help you.