Walk in any grocery store aisle today, the milk section is full of the “Non-Milks” or alternatives to milk (alt milk). These products look like milk (a white liquid) but mostly taste different. Often there consistency is like 0% fat milk. Yes, I am talking about the various milk alternatives — nut milk, oat milk, rice milk, soy milk, and so on. At their heart, all of these products are emulsions of a powdered substance in water. But, it's not like these substitutes are not popular. All of these have their own lovers. I for once love almond milk.
Now, as if these products were not enough, get ready to welcome “Not Milk” (yes that’s the name), milk created by AI (artificial intelligence)! The promise is that this is the closest thing to the real milk, sourced from plants! It even comes in 2% and whole milk options!
Why this love for milk substitutes when the natural thing is cheaper and widely available? The answers can range from improved sensibility around animal welfare to medical conditions like lactose intolerance. Growing up, I used to drink milk daily. Milk was supposed to be this amazing health miracle. But now, there is concern around the use of antibiotics and hormone injections in farm-sourced milk. As if this is not enough, milk can contribute to acne, allergies, high cholesterol (whole milk), and raise the likelihood of cancer. But, no milk substitute comes close enough to be the real thing. Each substitute has its own taste and nutrition profile. Unlike natural milk, others can’t readily be substituted for other dairy applications like baking or cooking.
In comes AI!
NotCo, a Latin American firm has used an AI algorithm to identify the set of molecules in vegan sources that closely resemble the molecular profile of cow’s milk. Cabbage and pineapple juice were the closest. These were combined with other nutrients like Vitamin B12 and D, pea protein in a proprietary mix to create Not Milk — the milkiest of all milk substitutes (as per the firm). After selling in Latin America, the company is launching in Whole Foods stores in the US.
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The CEO of NotCo, Matias Muchnik, likens the current spate of Alt-milks to the first generation soy-based meat substitutes — those that tasted like anything but meat! Not Milk is going to be, as Muchkin hopes, the Beyond Meat or Impossible Burger of the Alt-milk industry. A drink that is absolutely like milk but plant-based!
NotCo - food made with plants. Why not?
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Will Not Milk take over the US like a storm? Maybe! While the competition in the space is tough, the AI tag is sure to create a lot of buzz. It may not convert any real cow milk drinkers but it is sure to attract those already on the current alt-milk train! Not Milk is available in several Whole Foods locations in the US.