I would recommend Alpro Oat as a good substitute for milk in beverages and coffee, especially if you are looking to make affordable switches between dairy and plant-based milks. There are lots of similar oat milks, as well as other Alpro milk products, so I would recommend shopping around and finding an option which best suits your budget and nutritional goals . However, I think Alpro, and especially their parent company, Danone, have a long way to go before they make their product, which can be an incredible element in establishing a more sustainable world, into something that is genuinely sustainable. Danone need to advocate more for their vision due to the power they hold and maintain the standards that they advocate for through Alpro throughout their model to actually be the leaders that the corporate world needs to see.
Alpro Oat milk is effectively made of oats which are dissolved in water, along with Vitamins D, B2 and B12, and Calcium. The key ingredient is oats, which is the important element in differentiating Alpro’s Oat ‘drink’ from their other dairy analogues. Oats are a great crop because they are not water or land intensive the same way almonds are, for example, and grow in areas with naturally temperature climates. They also need less fertiliser, which is a huge bonus as fertiliser can cause harmful levels of greenhouse gas emissions. Additionally, when compared to soya, the production of oats is both more sustainable ethically and environmentally due to the current practices for oat and soya farming. The oats are all sourced in the European Union, and as a Belgian brand, this is a great step towards reducing food miles and transport emissions. Additionally, the labour laws and practices in the European Union are also commendable due to more stringent regulation regarding workers and the environment, while additionally not outsourcing labour to individuals in the global south or child labour. Soya however is mainly sourced in the global south and is inextricably related to the unsustainable monocultural farming of soy for cattle farming, especially in Brazil. While Alpro does also sell a soy drink, this product does not contain soy if you are concerned about these issues when choosing a dairy analogue drink. Additionally, it caters to dietary restrictions and allergies, as it is naturally free of dairy, lactose soy and nuts. It additionally has fairly large quantities of protein and fiber as less is removed or lost during its processing, generally more than almond or rice milk. For example, there is around 2 grams per serving, which is much higher than almond milk as the process to create almond milk requires the removal of fiber in the process. As such, depending on the dietary needs and goals of a consumer, I would recommend looking into the nutritional information of any dairy analogues and even dairy itself before making a decision of what product to buy. However, Oat overall is a good option especially for a European based consumer due to the benefits of oats as a local product in this region.
First of all, oats are ground before being treated so that they are soluble. They can then be blended with water to make a milk like substance. This is then fortified with other ingredients and nutrients; notably calcium, vitamins B2 and B12 are added. Furthermore, there is no added sugar in the product, and the only sugar it contains is naturally occuring. As aforementioned, the process actually maintains a lot of the fiber and protein which oats contain, which is important in creating a drink with significant nutritional value. Additionally, the process of making oat milk doesn’t require as much land and water usage as the process of producing dairy milk, especially as most of the processing is done in factories. The majority of the water used actually goes into the product, rather than creating large quantities of water waste.
Another part of the production process is the packaging. As of now, 76% of Alpro’s packaging is recyclable. This isn’t enough! Alpro needs to invest in more sustainable packaging, and although they made their goal 100% by 2025, they really need to keep working on it and making that improvement with more urgency. However, 2025 is a much closer and more ambitious target than many firms who set their ambitions in 2050, which is admirable, and I think it is important to give them credit for their steps in the right direction.
Additionally, Alpro mainly markets and distributes its products in a European market. That is significant in reducing the food miles associated with consuming Alpro products.
Alpro is a Belgian brand. They say on their website that they are strongly committed to sustainability, and have set a range of ESG goals by 2025, such as reduce GHG emissions by 30%, using 60% less water, creating less food waste and sending zero waste to landfill and pushing towards more recycling. Although these really important goals, yet again I think there needs to be less advertising of these ambitions and more evidence that they have committed to and how they are actually working towards these objectives.
However, Alpro is owned by the French multinational corporation Danone, as its former parent company WhiteWave was bought by Danone. This is another example that I have found of an innovative and growing popular plant based brand being bought by a large conglomerate.
Danone does have some important and strong commitments to sustainability incorporated into their brand and efforts, as its main slogan is “One Planet. One Health”, arguing that the health of people and the planet is necessarily interlinked. Danone is B-corporation certified, one of the first multi-nationals certified globally, boasting a score of 86.2 . However, 80 is the threshold for the certification, so there is a lot of room for improvement throughout Danone’s operation.
Danone are mostly known for their dairy products - such as Activia and Actimel, as well as water brands like Evian and Volvic. Their expansion into planet based products is part of their move towards a more sustainable portfolio. However, the dairy and bottled water industries are both serious offenders when it comes to sustainability - dairy requires huge amounts of land usage and produces a lot of greenhouse gases, while the plastic use and waste footprint of bottled plastic water is enormous.
Danone has been accused of hypocrisy, as along with Coca Cola and Unilever, they have been called out as a large polluter, who supports plastic pollution related initiatives in regions where the legislation has already started (notably in the EU) but lobbies against it elsewhere - such as the US, Africa and China. However, the Changing Market Foundation who made the claims also gives Danone credit for supporting the Deposit Return System for plastic waste, and explicitly supporting the need for an effective collection system. I do commend them for some of the work and the steps they are taking, but they have to do a lot more work to stand out from their competitors in terms of sustainability. Obviously this is challenging if they feel that it will compromise their competitiveness, however, to really meet the goals that they are putting out there and to live up to their values, a lot more work has to be achieved first.