Whether it’s for sustainability reasons or those related to health, more folks nowadays are looking for alternatives to animal-based dairy. Oat milk, chickpea milk, almond milk, and others have all made strides in the alt-dairy market, and now they have a new competitor: barley milk. Plant-based dairy company Take Two Foods just launched its “Barleymilk” product, the first of its kind to use what it calls “rejuvenated barley” to create milk for human consumption.
Portland, OR-based Take Two was founded this year, and launched “Barleymilk” this past March. Right now it’s available in coffeeshops and cafes around the Pacific Northwest and in Los Angeles, according to a recent company press release.
The company claims Barleymilk is a first of its kind. Over an email exchange with The Spoon, Take Two cofounder and CEO Sarah Pool said that in terms of a source for plant-based milk, “nobody knows about barley because the majority of companies are just fast-following trends.” In other words, plenty of companies are coming to market with almond milks and coconut milks, but barley is an untapped resource in terms of an ingredient for alt-milk.
That’s especially true when it comes to upcycled barley, which is made from the spent grain that goes to waste during the beer brewing process. Pool said about 8 billion pounds of spent barley goes to waste annually around the globe as the result of beer brewing. Take Two “rescues” this grain and uses it to make its Barleymilk, which Pool says can be used for everything from lattes to smoothies. The drink contains about 5 grams of protein per serving and has more than 50 percent less sugar than other milks.
Of course the acid test for plant-based products these days is taste. And actually, that’s one of the major gripes about plant-based dairy products. They rarely taste like the real thing, and according to Pool, the more nutritious they are, the worst they taste. “Even though the plant-based milk category is booming right now, brands haven’t been able to solve converting the mainstream consumer to non-dairy,” she said. “First and foremost, because plant-based milk doesn’t taste amazing.”
There’s some debate on that point. Plant-based milk is “the most developed of all the plant-based categories,” according to the Good Food Institute, which also notes that plant-based products like dairy are “increasingly competitive with animal products on the key drivers of consumer choice: taste, price, and accessibility.” So plenty of folks are buying alt-dairy products.
That said, taste is subjective, and not everyone agrees on the taste of current plant-based milks. Even my former colleague Catherine Lamb, a die-hard when it comes to plant-based anything, has written about the “bitter aftertaste that comes with, say, pea protein or soy.”
Take Two says its Barleymilk tastes good enough to drink by the glassful, and can also be used as a cooking ingredient. Whether consumers agree is to be determined. The milks currently come in four flavors: original, chocolate, vanilla, and something called “chef’s blend.” Online, a two-pack costs $9.98 (plus $5.99 for standard shipping), and, as mentioned above, the products are also available in cafes in parts of the Pacific Northwest and L.A.
At The Spoon, we haven’t yet gotten the chance to taste Take Two’s take on alt-milk, and we’ll keep you updated when we do. In the meantime, the company says it plans to expand Barleymilk nationally across both retail and foodservice by the Fall of 2020.