Are US consumers ready for peanut milk?
Elmhurst Milked is introducing two types of peanut milk, regular and chocolate. The products already are causing a stir for their taste, clean label and overall uniqueness, according to The Los Angeles Times.
The company's Milked Peanuts products contain just a few ingredients — filtered water, peanuts, cane sugar, Dutch-processed cocoa, natural flavors and salt. They reportedly are made using a cold milling process that doesn't include any extra preservatives, emulsifiers or thickeners, the National Peanut Board said. The label states there are 31 peanuts in each serving.
After a taste test, The Los Angeles Times said Milked Peanuts was like almond milk but with a smooth, milky texture and some peanut notes. "While almond milks and other milk replacements tend to taste watered down and empty, this flavor was rich, thick, and perfect for a peanut butter and banana smoothie," the paper said.
Why hasn't anyone brought a peanut-based beverage to market before now? Modern Farmer asked that question in 2015 when almonds and almond milk were becoming the tree nut and beverage du jour. At that time, the peanut had been dethroned as the nation's most popular nut (although it's actually a legume). While the magazine noted there are precedents for peanut-based drinks in other parts of the world, it was surprisingly missing in the U.S. until recently.
That Elmhurst, a plant-based milk manufacturer that was formally a traditional dairy, was the company to finally debut peanut milk isn't surprising. The company already makes beverages sourced from almonds, cashews, hazelnuts and walnuts. It also produces grain-based beverages made from oats and rice.
While peanut milk may taste good and offer nutritional benefits such as vitamins B6 and E, along with magnesium, unsaturated fats and 6 grams of protein per serving, it's not exactly a diet drink. One 8-ounce serving of the peanut variety contains about 150 calories and 11 grams of fat, while the chocolate peanut product has 130 calories and 3 grams of fat, according to the labels. That compares with 60 calories in an 8-ounce serving of Almond Breeze or Silk. Milked Peanuts also is not cheap; it's online price is $5.99 per quart.
The new product also is clearly not an option for those with peanut allergies. Peanuts were the most commonly identified food causing a life-threatening allergic reaction, according to a recent study. In addition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports food allergies rose 18% among children between 1997 and 2006. This may be one reason why manufacturers haven't invested R&D resources in such a risky ingredient.
But for now, consumer demand for plant-based foods and beverages shows no sign of abating. Non-dairy milk sales in the U.S. have increased 61% during the past five years, and were estimated to reach $2.11 billion in 2017.
From an environmental standpoint, peanut milk production is far kinder to the environment than the industry-leading almond milk. It takes fewer than five gallons of water to grow 1 ounce of peanuts. That’s a small fraction of the 80 gallons it takes to produce 1 ounce of almonds, although experts note the water efficiency in almond growing has improved in recent years.
As demand for plant-based milk increases, there could be a market for peanut milk. Consumers may wish to have different types of plant-based milk for different purposes — one to splash in their morning coffee, another to have with cereal and a third to use in cooking. Until plant-based milks and beverages reach a saturation point, expect to see more companies experiment with new ingredients to find the next big flavor.
- Los Angeles Times Peanut milk, where have you been all our lives?