How Danone is trying to design the most milk-like plant-based-milk

Plant-based milk is now totally mainstream: In 2020, gross sales of the class grew twice as fast as cow’s milk in the U.S. Oat milk gross sales greater than tripled, to $274 million, and almond milk topped $1.6 billion. Nonetheless, many shoppers nonetheless haven’t made the swap from conventional milk. Danone, one in every of the world’s largest dairy manufacturers, needs to persuade the holdouts to give plant-based alternate options a strive, and has spent greater than a 12 months growing new plant-based milk designed to be as indistinguishable as potential from the actual factor.

“There’s been a bunch of shoppers who stay skeptical about plant-based choices, largely due to their style and texture,” says John Starkey, president of plant-based meals and drinks for Danone North America. “From our analysis, we noticed that there have been about 53% of people that say that wouldn’t buy plant-based drinks due to their style.”

[Photo: Danone]

In early 2022, the firm plans to launch Silk nextmilk, with related vitamins and style as commonplace dairy, and So Scrumptious Wondermilk, which was designed each for ingesting and to work properly in cooking meals like macaroni and cheese. The Wondermilk line may even embrace pints of ice cream-like desserts. Each are created from a combination of oat, soy, and coconut milk.

The corporate, which has owned the Silk soy milk model since 2016, when it acquired White Wave Meals, used its expertise with each dairy and plant-based dairy to refine the new merchandise. “Step one was to study and deconstruct the basic dairy ingesting expertise, notably the key dietary components of dairy, the molecular composition of dairy, but additionally the very iconic sensory parts,” says Takoua Debeche, chief analysis and innovation officer at Danone North America.


The workforce tasted and rejected lots of of plant-based substances. A neuroscientist on workers who research the emotional connection to meals gave enter on what shoppers would need from the product. “We actually had to do away with all the plant-like notes so individuals might totally entry the reminiscence of milk,” Debeche says. The flavour was difficult to replicate—Debeche explains that it’s a fancy mixture of sweetness, creaminess, and fewer interesting attributes like sourness, bitterness, and a touch of sulfur. Like different meals, milk has a “taste curve” that develops over time in the mouth, and the workforce additionally had to strive to replicate how the taste modifications over seconds.

[Photo: Danone]

It was additionally necessary to get the texture proper. “The feel and the mouthfeel is really pushed by the milkfat particle dimension,” Debeche says. “Dairy milk has a really particular fats melting curve, and that fats melting curve is a results of the distinctive saturated fat present in dairy milk.” In the new merchandise, she says, the workforce discovered a mixture of fat, together with coconut, that “intently mirrors the melting profile of dairy fats so it coats your mouth in an identical manner.”

Some startups, like Good Day, are utilizing precision fermentation to recreate elements of dairy—that is, utilizing microbes which can be genetically programmed to produce whey and casein, key dairy proteins. As a result of the proteins are an identical to what’s present in cow’s milk, the ensuing merchandise additionally style astonishingly related to conventional dairy. Danone says, although, that the expertise isn’t prepared for it to use at the massive scale it requires, both by way of the substances obtainable or the value; the firm additionally plans to examine the environmental impression of utilizing that expertise versus purely plant-based substances.

Once I tried a pattern of Danone’s new merchandise, I assumed the taste was barely totally different than common dairy. However the creaminess and mouthfeel have been proper. It’s the closest plant-based imitation I’ve tasted to date. And the firm is betting that it’s going to convert extra shoppers. “This is an enormous alternative to shut that hole between conventional dairy and plant-based beverage family penetration,” says Starkey.