Here’s How to Sort Through the Milk Aisle’s Plant Explosion

Branded Milk Stock Low As Consumers Avoid Home Brands
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - MAY 24: Fridges stocked with milk are seen in a Coles supermarket on May 24, 2016 in Sydney, Australia. Coles shelves are low on branded milk stock as consumers purchase more expensive brands in support of local farmers. Australians are rallying around it's dairy farmers by opting to purchase branded milk rather than the cheaper store brands after the country's largest dairy company Murray Goulburn last month cut the price it pays suppliers by 15%. (Photo by Getty Images/Getty Images)
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The popularity of soy milk, long the creamer of choice for those unwilling to consume an animal product, has soured in recent years. (For more on this, read The Fall of Soy Milk.) That’s led to the rise of refrigerator full of plant-based alternatives.

But not all non-milk is created equal. If you’re steering clear of heifers, here’s the breakdown on what you should be drinking instead.

What Kind of Milk Should You Be Drinking?

▸ Almond

Brand example: Almond Breeze
Pros: It’s low in calories and has no cholesterol.
Cons: Low protein. It’s very water-intensive— requiring a gallon per almond (still better than cow milk)—and most U.S. almonds are grown in drought-ridden California.


▸ Coconut

Brand example: So Delicious
Pros: A creamy, rich taste. High in saturated fats, which are in vogue.
Cons: Lacking in protein. Many coconut farmers live in poverty.


▸ Hemp

Brand example: Tempt
Pros: The farmer-friendly crop is part of the plant-based subset of seed milk (think chia, flax, and sunflower). Great for its omega-3 and omega-6 benefits.
Cons: It has lower protein than milk and soy, and is associated with its illicit cousin, marijuana.


▸ Rice

Brand example: Rice Dream
Pros: The sweetness comes from naturally occurring sugars. Good for people with soy, nut, and dairy allergies.
Cons: It’s high in carbohydrates and very low in protein. Rice cultivation also requires a lot of water and emits methane.

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Yellow Pea

Brand example: Ripple
Pros: It’s significantly less water-intensive than almond and cow milk, and has more protein than other plant-based alternatives.
Cons: Ripple uses peas from France (not great for its carbon footprint) but is looking for a U.S. source.


For more on milk sales, watch this video:

A version of this article appears in the September 1, 2016 issue of Fortune with the headline “Soy Milk Is Over. Long Live Coconut Milk.”

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