New Dates Coming Soon / Metropolitan Pavilion
03 October 2023
The Cynic’s Guide to Plant Milk
As the alt-milk category has grown, it’s also gotten murkier as lots of players are forgetting why this category came into existence: a healthy and more sustainable alternative to dairy. Speaking to Willa’s about their journey as a plant based milk provider in the industry, they walked through everything you might need to know when thinking about plant based milk options.

It wasn’t until we started an oat milk company that we saw just how healthwashing, greenwashing, and misinformation are embedded into the plant based milk industry.

At Willa’s, our values guide every decision we make. We are on a mission to create plant based milk that tastes as good as it is for people and the planet.

You won’t find excessive amounts of sugar or rapeseed oil in our oat milk. We use the highest quality, organic ingredients as well as the whole entire oat. Using the whole oat (rather than just oat sugar) makes Willa’s delicious and rich without being overly sweet or high in sugar. It also means we maintain the oats’ health benefits. And that nothing good is wasted.

How to cut through the greenwashing and healthwashing in the plant based milk industry.

What’s in a milk?
On the front of the packaging, you’ll often find “plant based”, and then on the back, a dizzying array of ingredients, rapeseed oil, and/or staggering sugar content.

Digging in further, we were shocked to discover that most oat milk is made with processed oat sugar. The healthiest parts of the oat are discarded as food waste. That’s why you’ll see oat milks with  5 - 15 g of sugar per cup, and little to no protein or fiber.

A good rule of thumb to remember is 4 g of sugar equals a teaspoon, and ideally, your oat milk has less than one teaspoon per cup.

Using the whole oat rather than just oat sugar gives Willa’s a richer taste. It also makes our oat milk lower in sugar and higher in protein and fiber. We know the last thing you want with your coffee is a sugar spike and crash!

Rapeseed oil, also known as canola oil, is highly processed and has been associated with a higher risk for obesity and inflammation. It is not a necessary ingredient to create a delicious alt milk but used in alt milk far too often. You’ll never find it in Willa’s.

“Made from plants” means it has a lot of plants in it, right?
It is hard to believe, but many nut milks contain very few actual nuts as evidenced by class action lawsuits.

At Willa’s, we believe in using whole plant based ingredients. If it says oats, we think you should get the benefits - all of the oats’ protein and fiber!

Are plant based milks good for the environment?
Positioned as “less bad” than dairy, we’ve been disappointed by the blatant lack of environmentally responsible practices in this industry.

Almonds’ water usage gets a great deal of press, but there are also less obvious issues in ingredient sourcing and alt milk production.

Organic matters when it comes to oats. Oats are a cover crop, and organic oats are good for soil health and carbon sequestration, which, in a nutshell, means growing them can help fight and even help reverse climate change! That’s why Willa’s uses organic oats in all of our oat milk.

Conventional (non-organic) oats, on the other hand, are often heavily sprayed with pesticides like glyphosate, or Roundup, which is bad for soil health and for human health.

There is also a great deal of food waste involved in making many types of plant based milk. In the case of other oat milk brands, it is well documented that 20-30% of the oat is often discarded! It’s disheartening in a world where so many people are food insecure. It’s also a leading cause of climate change and methane, a greenhouse gas.

According to the UN Climate Report, if food waste were a country, it would be third after the US and China in greenhouse gas emissions. Project Drawdown cites food waste reduction as the number one solution to help reverse climate change.

Willa’s uses the whole entire oat. Nothing good is wasted.

When it comes to packaging, there is enormous opportunity for innovation. Plastic cartons and pouches have the lowest rates of recyclability. Recent reports say only 5% of plastic is recyclable.

Paperboard cartons are imperfect. At the same time, dramatic headway has been made in terms of using Forestry Council Certified paperboard and expanding recyclability. They are far more recyclable than single-use plastic and allow for a longer shelf life and less food waste.

Plant based milk manufacturers have an enormous opportunity to use truly plant based ingredients, provide actual plant based health benefits, and to help reverse climate change. If not, what is the point?

At Willa’s, we are on a mission to lead change in the plant based milk industry and create plant based milk that lives up to its promise.

Willa’s at The New York Coffee Festival

Look for Willa’s on Saturday at Latte Art Live, and in The Lab alongside Tenzo Matcha. You can always find Willla’s Organic Oat Milk on Amazon, at WillasKitchen.com and at Union Market and Citarella here in NYC.
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