Good day lovely friends...
Today is a good day for a good day and a good day to talk all things plant myyyylk aka vegan mylk.
It's spelled with a 'y' because of a legality, which means the word "milk" can't be used to refer to plant beverages within the European Union.
The words 'milk', 'cheese', 'yoghurt' and 'butter' are reserved for animal products, with a few exceptions including 'peanut butter' and 'coconut milk'.
I'm going to cover two things briefly in this post. The first is a little about the history of plant mylks and the second is about milk (generally) in glass bottles.
Plant-based beverages have been consumed for centuries, with the term "milk-like plant juice" used since the 13th century (wiki). Across various cultures, plant milk has been both a traditional beverage and a flavourful ingredient in sweet and savoury dishes, such as the use of coconut milk in curries. Plant mylks are also used in "ice cream", plant cream, vegan cheeze and yoghurt.
Plant mylks may be regarded as milk substitutes in Western countries but have traditionally been consumed in other parts of the world, especially ones where there are higher rates of lactose intolerance. Soya mylk was a plant mylk used in China during the 14th century. In Medieval England, almond mylk was used in a rice pudding type dish and coconut mylk is traditional in South and Southeast Asia.
Common plant mylks today are almond mylk, coconut mylk, rice mylk and soya mylk. Other plant mylks include hemp, oat, pea and peanut mylk.
My own journey started with plant mylks way back in 2005 when I was having problems with my stomach and switched from dairy milk to soya mylk. Back then there was nowhere near the choice there is today. I don't even remember seeing oat or almond mylk in the shops or soya mylk in the likes of Costa and Starbucks. Today in Sainsbury's you can take your pick from at least 10 different types of milk, even in the small stores, and it's very unusual to visit a cafe without at least 1 or 2 plant-based options.
My journey to making my own plant mylk started about 12 months ago when I started learning more about the environment, questioning the packaging and ingredients in plant mylks I was buying and throwing away. You can read more about my plant mylks and journey here.
My mission is to give everyone in Scotland the option to drink fresh, organic plant mylks (stored in glass bottles) without the waste, using minimal, fresh and sustainable ingredients, that contribute positively to the wellbeing of people and planet.
I currently provide 1. Oat and nut mylk, 2. Peanut and cashew mylk and 3. Almond and cashew mylk. I sell these (locally at present) in glass bottles in either 500mls or 1 litre sizes. My mylks have been designed around coffee because that is the main thing I use them for. They can be used in anything. You could make a mighty fine smoothie with peanut mylk and banana or add almond mylk to your porridge for flavour.
I now want to move onto the second part of this post, which is discussing the use of refillable glass bottles for milk.
The first glass milk bottles started appearing in the UK in around 1880, which enabled milk men to deliver a pre measured pint of milk to households. The clear glass bottles also gave customers a clear view of the condition of their milk. The bottles were initially sealed with cardboard and latterly with foil.
Often the dairy would have their name embossed on the bottle to encourage the customer to return it to the them for cleaning and reuse. This is one of the earliest examples of recycling in packaging. As milk became a morning requirement for many families with cups of tea and cereal, a national network of milk delivery was developed.
By 1975 94% of milk was bottled in glass, compared to 4% in 2012 (BBC website). 40 million bottles a day were delivered to households in the 1990s with colourful foil tops becoming a trademark of brands like Kelloggs and Cadbury.
It wasn't long until milk was deregulated in 1994 and supermarkets were selling larger volumes. Bottles were heavier than plastic and plastic was cheaper to transport, so plastic won the day. There was also no longer a need for daily delivery, with people having their own fridges at home and being able to buy milk with their weekly shop at the supermarket.
Since 2018 and what has been dubbed The Attenborough Effect (after Blue Planet revealed the damage being done by plastic) there has been a resurgence of dairy milk in glass bottles. The old fashioned milk bottle is back in vogue, partly spurred by an awareness of the environmental crisis we are facing as a population and perhaps a little nostalgia.
Why then has plant mylk not also had this awakening?
The BIG brand mylks are all sold in tetra pak in supermarkets BUT there are small signs of change afoot, mainly driven by pressure from the consumer. I believe we are standing on the bottom step of an escalator, which is about to escalate at high speed when it comes to plant mylk in refillable bottles. The growing momentum is mainly driven by awareness of the environmental crisis we are facing.
One of the main reasons people switch to a plant-based diet is the environment, alongside protecting animals and for health reasons. There is mounting consumer demand for more consciously designed and ethical products. The recent debacle around Oatly, and their buy out by Blackstone, is a clear example of the consumer expecting much more from their favourite brands.
There has also been an increase in independent zero waste and refill shops across the UK, as well as some of the bigger supermarkets, like Marks and Spencer and Waitrose catching on to demand. They are amongst the first major retailers to have offered bring your own container initiatives.
As part of the research I did for my refill mylks I looked into existing refill plant-mylk brands across the UK. This included any I could find via an Internet search and various Instagram hashtag searches. You'll see from the below that there are not many at all.
Two companies in particular kept popping up on google searches for "refillable oat mylk". Both The M*lkman and Rerooted say they supply mylk nationally but they are not available in Scotland.
I could be missing others, within refill and plastic free stores, that don't promote themselves as mylk companies in their own right but do offer a refill service within their store.
M*lkman was founded in 2017, driven by the fact that plastic is causing so many problems for our planet.
Over 300 million tonnes of plastic is produced globally every year and over 50% of this is for single use purposes (plastic oceans.org).
More than 8 million tonnes are dumped in the oceans every year and 90% of sea birds have plastic in their stomachs.
Despite tetra pak claiming to be 100% recyclable, this is only if it's sent to the correct recyclers (there's only one in the UK) with the machinery to do so. Most vegan milks come in tetra paks. They still create an awful lot of waste. Even if they are recyclable, they need to be transported first.
Many vegan mylks also come with a list of unpronounceable ingredients, preservatives and thickening agents.
"The M*lkman exists to challenge harmful environmental practices, pioneer new ones and create really delicious planet healthy products." (Mlkman website)
The M*lkman's offering include oat and coconut milk, with the recent addition of chocolate oat mylk. Delivery to customers is via traditional milk float or as stocked in various outlets in England.
Before I had the idea to make a Scottish refill oat mylk I did the obvious and googled to see if I could get my hands on a refill oat mylk delivered to my house. The only company that came up at that time was The M*lkman, based in and around London, but there was no delivery option for Scotland. The website says they deliver UK-wide but it doesn't look like that currently extends to Scotland.
The fact I could not get a refill oat mylk in a glass bottle was what initially got me thinking of making my own oat mylk. Plus the fact that we're pretty well known for our oats in Scotland. They've been a staple Scottish cereal crop since The Middle Ages so why is there no big brand Scottish oat mylk yet?
Rerooted was found by two friends Dan and Rich, who have a vast knowledge of nutrition, cooking, business and mindfulness.
Their product and packaging look amazing and they've inspired me to look for a label/branding solution that is recyclable too. I'm currently using stickers but I plan to have a label that can be kept and reused.
The Rerooted company aim is to reinvent how people drink milk. Their products are all organic and come in returnable, refill glass bottles filled in Devon. They deliver to their customer's doors using 100% electric vehicles. I also like the ethos behind their name, which aims to suggest a re-rooting of how people shop for plant milks and re-imagining a dairy free, plastic free future.
Their offering includes almond, coconut, oat and Barista oat mylks but from their website, it looks like they have more mylks in the pipeline.
The Butterfly Effect is a zero waste, refill shop and cafe based in Inch in Aberdeenshire.
In addition to offering refillable dried goods, nuts, seeds, pulses, grains and household cleaning and personal care items, they also make refill oat milk in glass bottles. They use organic Scottish oats, dates and Skye salt.
I have yet to visit the shop, or try out their mylk, but I've heard really great things about them.
Oat Mulk describe themselves as Scotland's first refillable oat mylk and they are based in Glasgow. There is no website associated with the Instagram account, which you can check out @oat.mulk
Their Instagram profile says their mylk is available at Zero Waste Market in Glasgow via a vending machine. This sounds and looks pretty cool, like the canteen vending machines that ordinarily provide dairy milk. I love this idea and can really see how a plant milk vending machine opens up possibilities for their business.
These guys are a plastic free online and physical grocery and ethical shop in Edinburgh. They have over 1000 products available that have been ethically sourced with zero plastic, offering a local click and collect and Cargo bike delivery. Under their products they have refill mylk and nut butters listed but there is currently no price or link available for their mylk.
I hope this article has been of interest. Have you found any refill plant mylks where you live or do you make your own?
Hey, that's me.... I can't wait to share my new branding and labelling with you guys soon...
I have BIG plans and I am excited to see where we can go. If you want to read more about my yummy scrummy mylks, check out the link here.
You can also email me firstname.lastname@example.org or message via Instagram and Facebook to place an order if you live locally.