Thai firms tapping secret formulas for ‘alternative milk’

The innovation of plant-based milk aims to increase its value, promote food security, and reduce environmental impact.


June 16, 2023

BANGKOKThe innovation of plant-based milk aims to increase its value, promote food security, and reduce environmental impact while catering to changing consumer trends.

Thailand’s National Innovation Agency (NIA) is actively exploring development of diverse milk products that offer increased nutritional value, minimal environmental impact, and cater to milk enthusiasts of all ages.

The push for “alternative milk” products goes hand in hand with Thailand’s commitment to the dairy industry.

Organic dairy

In 2003, Thailand entered into Free Trade Agreements (FTA) with Australia and New Zealand that included liberalisation of dairy and dairy product trade. Since then, Thai dairy farmers have had to produce high-quality organic raw milk and keep up with new trends to ensure survival and competitiveness in the global market.

Dairy Home, a social enterprise company, is aiming to become a producer and distributor of organic milk products derived from an organic cow-rearing process. Their approach focuses on environmental sustainability and avoiding the use of chemicals in the production process.

The underlying idea is that happy and well-cared-for cows result in delicious milk. This approach also helps reduce animal feed costs by utilising self-grown grass and employing farmers to care of the cows.

The production process also focuses on minimising carbon emissions and using clean energy sources such as wind and solar power while incorporating a comprehensive waste management system.

Dairy Home has been selected by the Commerce Ministry for the Local BCG (bio-circular green) Plus project in recognition of its potential for expansion both in the domestic and international market.

Dairy Home currently offers a diverse range of products, including milk and yogurt, which are the result of in-house research and collaborations with educational institutions. These efforts aim to improve the production process and develop new products.

The company says its commitment to innovation results in products that consistently capture consumers’ interest. For instance, their “bedtime milk” addresses insomnia with high levels of natural melatonin, promoting brain relaxation. It also has low-fat content, making it suitable for daily consumption.

Dairy Home also produces oral health-focused milk products to help prevent tooth decay, including yoghurt drinks and compressed milk tablets containing dental-protective probiotics. These products are developed through research conducted by the Faculty of Dentistry, Songkhla Nakarin University, focusing on common oral diseases and epidemiology.

However, not everyone can stomach cow’s milk.

Individuals with lactose intolerance, which affects up to 70-75% of the global population and is prevalent among Asian populations, may face challenges in consuming dairy.

Fortunately, alternative options such as plant-based milks are now available to cater to this group.

Rice innovation

One example is Diamond Fresh Rice Milk, extracted from fragrant young Hom Mali 105 rice and grains specially selected at their most nutritious stage. This product offers various health benefits and boasts high nutritional value, containing easily absorbable short-chain peptides with antioxidant properties that may boost the immune system.

And the good news also extends to rice farmers.

Diamond Fresh Organic Rice Milk helps mitigate the impact of price fluctuations in agriculture. However, recognising that expanding organic rice production could lead to oversupply, the company encourages its network of organic farmers to add value by creating health products that meet international standards.

To spur sustainable growth in organic rice farming, Diamond Fresh Organic Rice Milk from 100% organic farms is the first and only such product in Thailand to be certified with organic standards.

As the number of consumers allergic to cow’s milk continues to rise, with 15-20% of this group also tends to be allergic to soy milk, demand for plant-based foods and beverages among individuals following vegetarian or vegan diets is rising.

Healthy sesame

Sesamilk Foods Ltd is dedicated to researching and developing products that meet these consumers’ needs. The firm extracts the nutrients and other beneficial properties from premium-grade Thai sesame seeds, creating high-quality 100% sesame milk.

Their product line includes White Sesame Milk, rich in nutrients and containing up to 392.4 milligrams of essential minerals per 200 millilitres, and Black Sesame Milk, renowned for its intense flavour and abundant vitamins and minerals.

A highlight of Sesamilk products is their high calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, zinc, and dietary fibre content. Its 30 milligrams of sesame oil per 200 millilitres makes it an excellent choice for health-conscious consumers, says the company. It is also a low-sodium option.

Sesamilk recently began exports to Japan, attracting interest from businesses in the food and beverage industry that previously relied on cow’s milk or soy milk as ingredients.

Sesamilk Foods conducts its research and development in partnership with King Mongkut’s Institute of Technology Ladkrabang. The collaboration aims to create products that meet industry demands.

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