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Where is the Soy?

Soy milk in cafes has been challenged over the last three years with the innovation of new trends in plant-based milks, with many cafes increasing their use of Almond, Oat and Coconut in their milk drinks.

Written by
Sean Edwards

The real surprise is that soy milk is still the most used plant milk in cafes by volume. Almond and oat are also filling the popularity gap in the plant milk uptake, with declining volume sales in dairy. Soy makes up for 55% of all plant milk sold in Australian cafes, according to the latest IBIS World results.

We see soy milk is leading still because of the longevity of its followers who have been drinking soy for years and are very used to the taste profile of soy based drinks. We have also been spoilt in Australia with lots of choice in well-made cafe/barista soy milks.

I asked the Head Food Scientist, Andrew Penton from Sanitarium about how to go about designing a great barista soy.  Andrew has been involved in perfecting soy milk for Sanitarium, one of the largest soy producers in Australia with So Good and The Alternative Dairy Co as some of their leading brands.

Andrew explains; “Good soy is about the soy protein used in the manufacturing recipe. Barista milks are very different because you are using steam pressure to agitate and heat the liquid, and this directly affects the natural proteins and fat content in processed soy. We have to get the protein and fat content balance right, so when we heat to 60° Celsius for a cafe drink, we don’t get any curdling. The other challenge in making a good barista soy is having the right emulsifiers, because blending with an acidic espresso coffee will often create feathering on top of the coffee and is very noticeable when doing latte art. In developing The Alternative Dairy Co Soy, we have taken three years of research to get the right balance between usability and taste. Our scientist was put to the challenge to create the best Australian made barista soy, and it took lots of trial and errors to perfect. We are excited to launch the new formulation of ADC Barista soy this month and we are looking forward to completing the full Alternative Barista Co core range.”

Soy is not a new beverage trend, it was produced in China in 1500 AD, while in the process of making Tofu. The first commercial soy business started in Paris in 1910 by Chinese immigrants who would drink warm soy milk for breakfast. Soy businesses have sprung up slowly around the world as the demand for lactose free options were needed in food service. Barista soy is a relatively new formulation and has become much more popular with the increased rise of espresso coffee drink growth cycles. Barista’s wanted soy that tasted great but would also perform well when combined with a coffee base. Having a coffee that presents well with latte art is very much a pride thing for a skillful barista.

Rachel Glasbergen – Senior Business Manager at Sanitarium and The Alternative Dairy Co is excited to see how the industry reacts when they get to try the new formulation and is keen to receive their customers feedback. There has been lots of industry consultation and private tasting to get the soy taste right and keep the barista happy with performance. Rachel is thrilled as the new formula will join the already popular range of ADC offering of soy and oat. Her goal is to have an amazing soy milk, as the umbrella company Sanitarium, has been producing retail soy milk since the eighties. Brands like So Good are retail-leading brands and she can see the ADC range being the number one plant alternative in cafes, in taste, workability and value.

Café Culture has been following this segment of the industry for some time and have seen lifestyles swing toward healthy food and beverage trends. It has been really nice to see Australian manufacturers leading in designing clever plant milks specific for cafes and espresso bars. Australia has always been a leading innovator in cafes, and with the rise of plant milks being used in cafes, now consisting of 30% of all milk-based coffees sold (which is 95% of total market), the importance of this is now more than ever.

Soy has a strong place in cafes and companies who are refocusing on well-designed barista soy milks should have a good foothold in cafe product placement. It’s not a hard sell to the already converted consumer, so this will only get more soy sales by increasing the quality of taste and workable barista milk. Soy milk is often misjudged by the barista who struggles with stretching and pouring soy into coffee, so this issue has been tackled head on by smart businesses like The Alternative Dairy Co, with superior formulations and smart beverage innovation.

Ahoy let’s see better Soy!