Shallow Dive: Fluids have a solid future

Waterless formats for more sustainable beverages

A quick read of interesting titbits from the F&B universe. Skim through this in less than a ☕break.

One of the big selling points for plant-based milks is that they are better for the planet than milk milk. So how do you make these products even more sustainable? Well, some companies have a solid strategy for this. And, yes, I’m milking this silly pun for all its worth. 

A number of companies have been offering plant-based milk in dry formats to address issues of sustainability.

Prints, powders, and pastes

German company Veganz has introduced oat milk in the form of 2D printed sheets called Mililk. A specially developed process allows oats to be printed as A4 sheets, and each sheet can be blended with water for 30 seconds to make the oat milk. The sheets are made using fermented and gluten-free oats, rapeseed oil, locust bean gum, sea salt, and bourbon vanilla.

The product has a rather unique positioning — “letterbox friendly” — and the company sends it through the post to customers. Mililk was initially launched for the food service sector, but is now available for retail sale.

Milk powder is not a new concept, so why should plant-based milk powder not be a thing? Before the printed sheets came out, a number of companies had already launched alt milk powders. A pack of these powders makes around 10 times the amount of milk.

Overherd’s ingredients are gluten-free organic oats, MCT powder, chicory root fiber, calcium carbonate, and vitamin B12. Mighty Oat Milk Powder has only 3 ingredients — oat extract, coconut oil, and salt. Both products can be added to water to make milk or directly into hot drinks as a creamer.

Image source: Company websites

Pastes offer a bit more versatility in terms of use, since consumers can tailor the consistency to different needs like as a milk alternative, for cooking and baking, as a spread and so on. Concentrates appear to be the format of choice for nut- and seed-based milks, most likely due to the nature of the base ingredients themselves.

Nooj is made from a base of almonds or cashew, along with water, rapeseed glycerin, sunflower oil, and salt, while Joi is purely the nut paste.

Image sources: Company websites

Other beverage categories are drying up too

Powdered drink mixes aren’t exactly new and have been a summer staple for kids worldwide. But this category is now adulting with the best of them. With grown-up flavors, ingredients, and claims, these mixes are now are positioned as functional products for for hydration, performance, post-workout recovery, and even as anti-hangover solutions. There are even nutritional support products that offer benefits like immunity and gut health.

In fact, this category is anticipated to grow from US$5.38 billion in 2024 to over US$11.46 billion by 2034, at a pretty solid CAGR of 11.3% during this period, according to Future Market Insights.

Instead of bulk packs, the powdered drinks available today are often in single-serve sachets that are convenient for consumers to carry. The different flavor options available also appeal to those who want a variety of enhanced waters instead of the plain unflavored option, but in contemporary imagery.

Liquid Death’s Death Dust is a range of electrolyte drink mixes that come in single-serve sachets. Each sachet contains 35 calories, 300 milligrams of sodium, 200 milligrams of potassium, and 40 milligrams of magnesium, plus light sweetening with dextrose and cane sugar.


Even brewers are experimenting with the powdered format. German brewer Kloserbraurei Neuzelle claims to have made the world’s first powdered beer. Apparently it just needs to be added to water and stirred. It even has carbonation to ensure the froth of beer. It isn’t entirely clear if this product is available to consumers yet or if it will even be accepted by serious beer drinkers, but it does have the potential to make transporting beer a lot easier on the environment. Some estimates suggest that 70% of the climate impact of a liter of beer is linked to packaging and transportation.


Why dry is fly

Sustainability has become an important factor for manufacturers, as consumers become more concerned about the impact of their choices on the environment. A study by the NYU Stern Center for Sustainable Business found that the sale of products with sustainability claims grew 2.7 times faster during 2015-21 than those of standard products. Products that were marketed as sustainable had a 17% market share in 2022 versus 3.3% in 2015.

A BCG study in 2022 of 19,000 people found that when it came to food, around 77% consider sustainability in their day-to-day decision making process, but only about 20% follow through on this by buying sustainable products.

And the top features that consumers associate with sustainable food are health, high quality, and filling or nutritious - a far cry from the more mundane issues of carbon footprint.

From a company’s perspective, though, this shifting from a liquid format to solid ones definitely has a few upsides.

  • Most beverages are over 95% water. Remove the water and you’ve significantly reduced the weight of the product. This means more can be transported using fewer trips - thereby reducing the transport fleet’s overall emissions.

  • Far less packaging material is needed, since these dry formats remove the need for single-use bottles/cartons. Instead, a single dry pack can be used to make several liters of the drink when needed.

  • The lack of water increases shelf life and allows the product to be stored at ambient temperatures even after opening the pack. This can go a long way in reducing food waste, a huge contributor to greenhouse gas emissions.

These benefits can help companies and consumers manage their carbon footprint in a way where the impact is viable and measurable, instead of more ambiguous claims that can’t be easily proven or disproven.

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