Food

Preservative-free vegan milk at your doorstep

Back when Delhi-based Parul Priya Srivastava swore by dairy milk, she could at the most manage to gulp down half a cup. “In India, it’s blasphemous to think about doing away with milk,” says the chartered accountant who religiously followed the routine every day, even if it left her feeling uneasy. Thanks to vegan variants, for the last two years, a 200 ml bottle of almond milk is on her table thrice a day.

One of the challenges faced by people like Srivastava, who are at the cusp of a vegan lifestyle, is the supposed lack of additive-free alternatives. More so, when it comes to giving up a staple as intrinsic to the Indian diet as milk. Vegan milk is no stranger to the Indian market, what with brands like Sofit and Staeta lining supermarket shelves with their almond and soya offerings. Taking ‘all natural’ milk a step further are entrepreneurs who deliver a range of preservative-free vegan choices — almond, peanut, cotton seed — right to your doorstep.

Variety is the name

For the founders of Goodmylk and SAIN, it started with a hunt for affordable dairy alternatives for themselves. “We wanted to make plant-based food affordable and accessible,” says Abhay Rangan, founder of Bengaluru-based Goodmylk that offers peanut and almond milk (starts at ₹40). On the other hand, Delhi-based Sheena Jain started making her own almond milk under the brand, SAIN, when she could not find any in the market. She now supplies a variety of flavours with cardamom, vanilla, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts and pumpkin seeds, to consumers in Delhi and Gurugram. “Almond milk feels light, though it keeps you fuller with the good fat content in it. It also blends perfectly into Indian cuisine, sometimes even replacing cream in curries,” she says.

Preservative-free vegan milk at your doorstep

People have also been known to make milk from a variety of natural sources such as watermelon seeds, hemp, oats and cotton seed. Milk made from cotton seed, known as paruthi paal in Tamil Nadu, is a protein-rich staple in Madurai. For Chetan Pal, director, Chetran Foods, which specialises in tofu and soyamilk- based foods, once you broaden the definition to anything that is a ground filtered liquid, you are bound to find something exciting. “In Sudan, people pull out seaweed from the Nile, wash and boil it, and process it to make a tofu equivalent,” he says.

Acquired taste

For sweetening, dates and honey are go-to ingredients. At Gurugram-based Nourish Health Bar (₹140 onwards), cardamom and cinnamon are used instead of artificial sweeteners. “The vanilla variants of our coconut and almond milk are flavoured with vanilla pods from Goa,” says founder Manoj Kumar Dhillon.

But irrespective of the many substitutes, vegan milk takes getting used to. Anushree Kamath, founder of Bengaluru-based The Happy Calf, that makes ragi, almond and coconut milk, says, “When I offered coffee made with hemp milk to participants at one of my workshops, they could sense the milk’s strong earthy flavour instantly. It’s an acquired taste.”

 

Combining milks is one of the methods used to adapt to the flavour. Cold coffee may taste better if you use cashew and coconut milk. For regular coffee, you may want to mix cashew and almond milk. “Tea tastes better when you combine different varieties,” says Mumbai-based Shasvathi Siva of Cowvathi (known for its signature vegan cheeses), who offers milks at ₹100 onwards.

Nutrient balance

According to Dhillon, the calories and protein content in vegan milk are major parameters for the health conscious. “Coconut milk has almost 690 calories per 300 ml. One might even experience dizziness or an increase in sugar levels after consuming it,” he says. It takes close to 12 hours for Dhillon to prepare about 6,000 litres of almond milk — right from soaking the almonds to packaging them in bottles.

But choosing just one variety over the other will not ensure dairy-equivalent nutrition, says Delhi-based nutritionist Ira Rattan Khanna. “Cashew milk is rich in magnesium whereas coconut milk is a great source of Vitamin A,” she says. Citing the example of how we are often asked to drink a glass of milk for a good night’s sleep, she explains how cow’s milk has magnesium and casomorphins. “This gives us a high and the hypnotic effect gets us addicted in a way to milk,” adds Khanna, who makes cashew and calcium-rich foxnut milk under her Gurugram-based brand, Vegan India.

Limited shelf life

Arguably the only roadblock greeting the mass consumption of vegan milk is its short shelf-life. Goodmylk is one of the few brands that offers shelf-stable products (up to 120 days), but most manufacturers urge customers to opt for subscription plans. Cowvathi delivers only if located within 5 km of her kitchen. For longer distances, she prefers customers pick it up. “We make the milk an hour before the scheduled delivery or pick up time. It will last you for 24 hours at the most,” she says. Similarly, Jain, who offers a 50-bottle subscription, insists on taking orders a day in advance.

Preservative-free vegan milk at your doorstep

Abhay Rangan

Vegan curiosity

But are all consumers strict vegans? Surprisingly, an equally strong, if not larger, chunk of consumers are non-vegans and vegan-curious. “Many seek healthier options, especially for those with autism, lactose intolerance and irritable bowel syndrome (IRS),” says Kamath, recalling a customer (suffering from IRS) who tasted milk and curd for the first time at The Happy Calf.

Similarly at Goodmylk, which churns out thousands of litres of creamy peanut milk each month, Rangan says less than 30% of his consumers are vegans. Going forward, he hopes the market sees ‘clean label’ products (no emulsifiers, stabilisers) like their vegan peanut curd.

Preservative-free vegan milk at your doorstep

Anushree Kamath

Variety is key in the vegan world and going forward, customers will get to try new flavours. Kamath has put orders on hold for a few months to experiment with ragi and millet milk and how to increase their shelf life. At SAIN (sainworld.com), Jain will soon have turmeric and cardamom flavoured almond and coconut milk on their menu.

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Printable version | Jan 24, 2021 12:15:31 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/food/homemade-vegan-milk-options/article23988465.ece

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