Milk made from black-eyed peas? New alt dairy overshadows competitors on protein

A monumental rise of plant-based milk alternatives has been observed in recent years. And now that the plant-based dust has settled, some consumers won’t be going back to dairy’s conventional counterpart.

The loyal customer base that has well and truly developed even continues to grow. The global plant-based milk market is expected to escalate​ from $20.1bn (€18.68bn) this year to $47.9bn by 2034.

At the same time, consumers are increasingly looking to increase their protein intake. But as it stands, rarely from plant-based milk alternatives.

“While many consumers enjoy the taste and texture of plant-based milks like oat, almond, or rice, they often express dissatisfaction with their protein content,” according to Alon Karpol, CEO of Better Pulse.

In response, the Israeli start-up has developed a solution made from an unlikely plant base: the black-eyed pea. “It provides three times the protein of regular oat milk, all while maintaining the delightful taste and creamy texture [consumers] crave.”

Some plant-based milk alternatives contain more protein than others, with black-eyed pea milk coming in at 8g protein per 100ml. GettyImages/Neustockimages

Are black-eyed peas good for human and planetary health?

Black-eyed peas, otherwise known as goat peas, are a sub-species of the cow pea. Distinguishable by their off-white colour and black spot on the side, black-eyed peas are considered a traditional food in the southern US, but are grown worldwide.

From a nutrition perspective, black-eyed peas contain more than 30% protein and are a good source of fibre. At a micronutrient level, they contain calcium, iron, magnesium and vitamin A, amongst others.

How much protein does plant-based milk contain?

Well, it depends… Some plant-based milk alternatives are higher in protein than others

Per 100ml, Danone-owned Alpro almond milk contains just 0.4g protein, whereas Oatly’s Organic Oat Drink contains slightly more at 1.1g per 100ml.

Soya milk tends to contain more protein. Rude Health’s Organic Soya Drink contains 3g protein per 100ml.

Some brands are leveraging different plant-based ingredients – or plant protein blends – to boost functionality and nutritional benefits. Examples include Mighty’s High Protein Pea Unsweetened milk alternative, which contains 2g protein per 100ml.

One of the highest on the market is Alpro’s Protein plant-based drink. Made with soy, protein content comes in at 5g per 100ml.

In terms of sustainability, black-eyed peas are known to fix nitrogen in the soil, which can lead to less fertiliser use. They can grow with low water requirements in high-temperature climates. “It’s the ideal crop to mitigate food shock caused by global warming,” Karpol told this publication.

For Better Pulse, they’re a win-win-win when it comes to the alternative dairy segment. The base, when used in a milk alternative format, is ‘deliciously creamy’, ‘incredibly sustainable’, and boasts 8g of protein per serving – at least three times more than most oat milk alternatives.

“We’re harnessing the power of black-eyed pea protein to elevate the plant-based milk category, offering a revolutionary product that’s not only healthy and innovative but also incredibly sustainable.”

Taste and functionality of black-eyed pea alt dairy

To create Better Pulse’s base product, the company employs a similar process to that used to make other plant-based dairy alternatives, but with ‘some modifications’, revealed the CEO. IP protection is pending.

The protein concentrate and isolate, on the other hand, are produced using an extraction process the company itself developed.

black eyed pea Vijayakumar Bingi

Black-eyed peas help to fix nitrogen in the soil. GettyImages/Vijayakumar Bingi

Plant-based proteins are known to battle with unwanted aftertastes and off-notes​. Soy and pea proteins, for example, have been described as ‘earthy’ and ‘astringent’.

Acknowledging that ‘taste is king’, Karpol said Better Pulse’s black-eyed pea isolates and drinks have ‘much more’ subdued tones of beany, bitter and earthy notes compared to pea and soy. “It is much closer in taste to oat and almond-based dairy…”

Becoming increasingly important in the alternative milk category is frothing capabilities. ‘Barista-quality’ dairy-free offerings are increasingly commonplace on-shelf​, and Better Pulse claims its creation responds to this need.

“Despite its simple composition, it delivers exceptional frothing and foaming capabilities, resulting in a luxurious, full-bodied experience,” notes the company.

“Better Pulse envisions the Black-Eyed Pea Base as [a] go-to coffee creamer, barista milk, and even the perfect solution for iced coffee solutions.”

Where will black eyed-pea milk be on the menu?

Black-eyed peas creama in coffee

Could black-eyed pea for the base for the hottest new barista-quality alt milk on the market? Image credit: Better Pulse

The B2B supplier’s go-to-market strategy will see the black-eyed pea protein concentrate, protein isolate, base drinks be sold to food companies, although Karpol revealed it’s also open to licensing its drinks formulations (from milk to yoghurts).

“We will be focusing on medium-sized food companies right now, as they can make fast decisions and this is what we’re looking for right now – to move fast.”

Technically, black eyed-pea-based dairy alternatives could come onto the market in Europe, since the base is not genetically modified and processing methods are known to EU regulators.

The isolate and concentrate may need to be assessed by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), but Karpol told us it’s ‘unlikely’ to be considered a novel food.

The company’s initial market focus, however, will be on North America. “Our go-to-market strategy is to start with the US and Canada and then move to Asia and Europe.

“Our target customers are plant-based protein brands for the alt dairy industry, making milk, cream, yoghurt, and ice cream alternatives.

“Companies like Chobani, Ripple Foods, and [Danone North America-owned] Silk are potentially very fitting customers for us.”