Most people who know me call me an adventurous eater because I tend to get very curious about novel foods and novel formulations, and, even if they might not always be healthy, I try them anyway.
I have this urge to taste everything new in the market (and yes, I did try insects, too) to better understand the taste and texture and relate the product’s characteristics to its formulation.
Last week, I went to my local Waitrose looking for a potato dairy-free beverage to use as milk. As a regular alternative milk beverages buyer, I am pretty familiar with brands and options, and I was very surprised when I realised that there was one more option to choose from: the potato plant-based drink sold under the name ‘Dug’.
This potato based beverage is associated with a low carbon footprint (0.27 – 0.31 Kg CO2e/kg); it is allergen-free and vegan friendly. For all of these reasons, Dug has been awarded a World Food Innovation Award 2021. These were excellent reviews and made me even more curious to try them.
When you open a carton of barista Dug potato beverage, you will notice that the viscosity is very similar to that of milk (if not just a bit more viscous than milk); it comes out in a pleasant colour that is similar to an oat drink. If you look at the ingredient list in the barista version, you can realise that there is a high sugar concentration as it appears high in the ingredients list order.
When drinking it, Dug indeed tastes sweet (you can buy the unsweetened version if you need it), and it is the sweetness that you can taste at the very beginning; the more you drink, the stronger the potato taste becomes, and that is the moment when you can taste a bit of acidic taste alongside an astringent feeling.
This astringent taste causes some kind of drying in the oral cavity and is most likely due to the pea proteins present in the formulation (which can help with foaming when you use this type of beverage in a cappuccino, hence their use in a barista version) as some proteins might cause astringency when used in acidic conditions.
Now, I didn’t check the pH of this potato plant-based beverage, but I did detect acidic notes indeed.
This beverage is made by emulsifying potatoes (perhaps potato proteins extract?) with rapeseed oil (alongside some other emulsifiers and the use of pea proteins too). The resulting emulsion is quite stable over time and gives it the chance to be used in combination with tea, coffee or for its use in other applications such as baking (or ice-cream making?).
I have to admit that I didn’t dislike it, but I still have to train my palate for this new taste. I will not have a definite opinion until I try this product in a cappuccino. I think this could be an interesting alternative, but I am not sure if this would be a very suitable option for those interested in clean labels.
When consuming foods, we also need to be aware of the quantity of sugar and fats, so we also need to modulate amounts and rate of consumption.
Which other alternatives will we see in the supermarket?
Am I the only one tormented by more questions than answers about manufacturing plant-based options for classic foods?
Do we have to mimic milk at all costs?