I picked up a bottle of Califia Protein Oat milk at the Grocery Outlet a week ago for $1.99 – it’s normally $6 at other stores such as Whole Foods. I am very fussy about what I put in my coffee and over the last couple of years I’ve found two things that work well: homemade hazelnut milk and oat milk. The Califia Protein Oat milk worked really well in my coffee and tea – it’s similar to Oatly, which I’ve also bought at the Grocery Outlet. I want milk that doesn’t change the flavor of the coffee much but that adds a little body and creaminess. Both Oatly (especially the Barista Blend) and Califia Protein Oat milk meet these criteria. There are other milks that work well in cereal – I’ve bought hemp milk and sesame milk at the Grocery Outlet and thought both of them were great with cereal but not so good (for me) in coffee because they change the flavor too much.
This week, I experimented by making my own oat milk (I’ll report on that in a separate post) and achieved results that were pretty similar to commercial oat milk from Califia and Oatly. It turns out that making oat milk is really easy and it’s also dirt cheap. You may not think that you have the time (and on some weeks, perhaps you won’t) but if you try it once I think you’ll find it a good way to reduce your packaging footprint.
Califia packaging – sustainability
One of the most striking things about Califia is their award-winning packaging, which, according to Califia is “based on the classical, feminine proportions featured in a Greek Amphora.” It’s also very ergonomic, being easy to grasp and open. On the downside, it contains a lot of plastic, and unlike some other plant-based milk companies (e.g., Ripple) it’s made from virgin plastic (PET) rather than recycled (rPET). Researchers from the University of California, Davis, recently published a paper that looked at the impact of Califia almond milk and found that the packaging contributed over 40% of the product’s Global Warming Potential (GWP). This isn’t too surprising as the packaging really is super bulky! The researchers made a suggestion to Califia for reducing its carbon footprint: Switch to lighter packaging that’s made from recycled plastic.
So there’s no doubt that Califia should be using rPET to make their bottles. If we want to continue using plastic packaging in such large quantities then it really has to be recycled as much as possible, and the only way in which a recycling works is if there’s demand for recycled plastic fibers. Califia do try to make recycling a little more efficient by making the label easy to remove, but it needs to step up and use rPET for bottles, as Ripple Foods does. In an ideal world, Califia could take it a step further and introduce reusable glass bottles within California – Strauss creamery, across the Golden Gate Bridge in Marin, has implemented this system successfully for years.
Califia Protein Oat milk – ingredients
There is more to the new Califia Protein Oat milk than just oats – it’s made with pea protein as well as oats, increasing the protein content from around 2.5 grams per serving (for typical oat milk) to 8 grams per serving. It also contains flaxseed oil to deliver omega-3 fats (720 mg of alpha-linolenic acid per serving) and good amounts of calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin E. So by combining oats with the two main ingredients of Ripple milk (pea protein and sunflower oil) and then adding in the flaxseed oil and mushroom powder, it looks like Califia is emulating the flavor of oat milk and the nutritional profile of dairy milk. But it has advantages of conventional dairy milk in that it contains fiber, less sugar, and no cholesterol.
Califia Protein Oat milk ingredients: Oat milk (Water, Oats), Pea Protein, Sunflower Oil, Sunflower Butter, Calcium Carbonate, Flaxseed Oil, Dipotassium Phosphate, Natural Flavors, Sea Salt, Tricalcium Phosphate, Gellan Gum, Vitamin D2 Mushroom Powder.
Ethical rating for Califia Protein Oat milk
Overall, I think that Califia Protein Oat milk deserves 4 Green Stars for social and environmental impact, based on these factors:
- It’s a certified vegan product, providing a more ethical alternative to cow’s milk.
- The main ingredients, oats and peas, are very sustainable crops, in general.
- Califia does a decent job at using renewable energy: their goal is to transition to 100% renewable power by 2020. I contacted Califia to ask if they have achieved this but haven’t received a response yet.
- Califia also works on conserving water by working with farmers who use more efficient drip irrigation systems and also reclaiming all water from their manufacturing facility for use on nearby farms.
- Califia also make a good effort at protecting bees and encouraging integrated pest management on supplier farms. It would be good to get an update on oats and peas now that these ingredients are taking center stage.
- I’d prefer if Califia sourced organic oats and certainly organic sunflower oil/butter.
- Packaging should be lighter and made with recycled plastic (rPET).
Summary scores (out of 5) for Califia Protein Oat milk:
- 4.5 gold stars for quality and value.
- 4 green stars for social and environmental impact
As mentioned at the beginning, oat milk is super-easy to make at home and also really cheap. Califia’s product does add nutritional value by adding flaxseed oil and mushroom powder, but of course you could also do this at home. The major downsides of Califia’s product are the large amount of virgin plastic in the bottle and the lack of organic ingredients. I’m going to try making homemade oat milk regularly, but as far as commercial products go, this is a pretty good one. I’ll cover others in upcoming posts.
If you have a different opinion, please share your rating! Until next time, stay safe 🙂