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Vegan and plant milks

Ethical and environmental rankings for 26 vegan plant milk brands.

We look into the sustainability of plant milks, including almond, coconut, hemp, rice and soya; packaging, and who produces them. We shine a spotlight on Alpro, owned by Danone, and make Best Buy recommendations. 

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This is a product guide from Ethical Consumer, the UK's leading alternative consumer organisation. Since 1989 we've been researching and recording the social and environmental records of companies, and making the results available to you in a simple format.

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What to buy

What to look for when buying plant milk:

  • Is the plant milk from a vegan company? Plant-based milk is pretty solidly better for the environment and animals than dairy milk. If possible, choose a product made by an entirely vegan company.

     

  • Is it make from potatoes, peas, oats or hemp? These plant milk types are generally the more sustainable options, though all options are better than dairy.

  • Does it use refillable and reusable packaging? It’s now possible to find plant-milk refills or get reusable bottles delivered to your door.

Subscribe to see which companies we recommend as Best Buys and why 

What not to buy

What to avoid when buying plant milks:

  • Non-organic almond milk. The almond industry is rife with pesticide use that is harmful to humans, bees, and other wildlife. Avoid almond milk that isn’t certified organic.

  • Soya milk from South America. Soya production in South America has been linked to deforestation of tropical rainforest. Although much of this is for animal feed, it is best to avoid South American soya in plant milk too.

  • Plastic bottles. Plastic bottles have a larger carbon footprint than cartons and often end up in landfill.

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Score table

Updated live from our research database

← Swipe left / right to view table contents →
Brand Score(out of 20) Ratings Categories Positive Scores

Our Analysis

cartoon: plant milk milking plants ethical consumer vegan hows it going are you getting anything yet?
Image (C) Mike Bryson

The plant milk market is booming. You only have to blink and another brand appears before you, the product of something you never thought could be milked.

Plant milk is definitely no longer just about soya. In fact there are over 20 different base ingredients of three main types: beans, cereals and nuts. The newest kid on the block is the humble spud.

Plant options are much more visible, with many brands now available in mainstream supermarkets.

Non-dairy milks are also finally available in reusable glass bottles, delivered to your door. We have rated two brands – Oato and ReRooted – that are available from milk rounds in much of the UK. Another new addition, Minor Figures, can be refilled in selected zero-waste shops.

Why choose plant milk?

The environmental benefits of plant milks are the main marketing angle these days, but choosing plant milk over dairy is also a way to help reduce animal exploitation. We cover this more in detail in our article on the typical life of dairy cow.

When comparing the environmental impact of various milks, the most important thing to remember is that the average plant milk fares much better than dairy milk.

While the carbon impact of dairy milk results in about 2.2 kg of CO2 per litre, the impact of plant milk is only about 0.6-0.9 kg per litre. The production of dairy milk also requires far more land, using about 2.2 m2 per litre produced, while plant milks use between 0.3 m2 and 0.5 m2. Our article comparing the climate impact of plant and dairy milk has more information.

Between the plant milks there is little difference in terms of climate impact, though there are some factors to consider, such as: where the ingredients come from and how they are grown. We cover these issues later in this guide.

What is dairy-free plant milk made from?

Vegan plant milk can be made from a variety of plants including soya beans, peas, oats, rice, and various nuts and seeds. It can also be made from potatoes. We discuss the main ingredients used by plant based milk brands below.

Soya beans

The classic plant milk ingredient is soya, but soya is associated with deforestation in South America. However, it is worth remembering that most soya grown in the world is used to feed livestock, not people. For more on the impacts of soya see our online feature ‘Is soya sustainable’.

To minimise the risk that the soya you are drinking is associated with deforestation, it is good to look for a company that sources it from outside South America. See the table below for what we found online on all the soya milk brands, including supermarkets.

Supermarket statements on soya mostly relate to what is used in feed for their animal products, and they may specify separately – look on the packaging – the origin of soya used in soya milk. We listed M&S separately as it had clearly stated online that the soya in its soya milk was from the EU. In 2020, it also announced it had eliminated all soya from the feed of animals used for its dairy milk, replacing it with rapeseed oil and sugar beet.

Companies' statements on where their soya comes from:

Soya milk brand Soya origin
Asda, Aldi, Co-op, Lidl, Morrisons, Tesco, Waitrose They talk about increasing certification, or supporting European soya (Aldi), stating or implying they currently source from South America.
Glebe Farm, Linda McCartney, Rude Health No info found
Soya Soleil No info found, but it is owned by Alpro (see below)
Alpro France, Belgium, The Netherlands, Canada
M&S Plant Kitchen European Union
Plamil European Union
Plenish France
Sojade France
Provamel Europe
The Bridge Italy

Pea & chickpea

Yellow split peas are another of the newest milk ingredients currently gaining a following in the UK. They have been praised for tasting a lot like dairy milk. Peas are nitrogen-fixing, so when included in crop rotation cycles, they can reduce the use of nitrogen fertiliser, and the release of nitrous oxide, which has a significant impact on global warming.

Oats

While the average carbon emissions of growing oats might be fairly similar to that of soya or almonds, if shopping in the UK, the oats in your oat milk were probably grown closer to home than many other popular plant milk ingredients.

Oats require less water to grow than almonds and, while they do require a fair bit of land, there is little risk that tropical rainforest has been razed to the ground to grow them.

Rice

Rice can have a higher greenhouse gas impact than other cereals due to the methane produced by flooded rice paddies. However, it isn’t really clear if it makes much difference to the carbon footprint of rice milk – some analyses find it somewhat bigger than the other alternatives to dairy, but others don’t. Either way, rice milk still comes out as far better for the climate than dairy milk. For more discussion of the ethical issues around rice see our shopping guide to rice.

Almond

Over 80% of the world’s almonds are grown in California, which experienced severe drought for much of the last decade, with 2022 to date the driest year of the last 128 years. For this reason, almond milk may be one of the least ethical options compared to other plant milks. However, it’s worth keeping a sense of perspective.

Not only does it also take plenty of water to produce dairy milk (some analyses put it at similar, some more, and some less than almond milk), but the comparison is pertinent to California, which produces more dairy milk than almonds (in dollar terms) and uses more water to grow alfalfa to feed livestock than it does to grow almonds.

It’s also worth pointing out that almonds are used for all sorts of products (oil, flour, cakes and sweets, etc.) and are popular for cooking and snacking around the world.

Another issue is that Californian almond farmers often use a lot of pesticides, which can be harmful to the health of wildlife and people. It has been a particular cause of concern for bee welfare. The use of bees to pollinate California’s almond monocrops is also thought by some to be putting bees under a lot of stress.

But all of the almond milk brands in this guide, except Bruce, Glebe Farm and Linda McCartney, stated that they source almonds from the Mediterranean, either Italy or Spain.

While issues with Californian almonds get more attention because of its huge market share, pesticide use is also an issue in other countries, and with other ingredients. The easiest way to avoid high pesticide use is to choose an organic certified product. The following brands sell organic almond milk: Alpro, Bruce, Plenish, Provamel (Danone), ReRooted, Rude Health, and The Bridge.

Coconut

Coconut is not associated with deforestation like palm oil or soya.  However, coconuts are largely grown in places such as India, Indonesia and the Philippines, so it’s an ingredient that has to travel a long way to reach the UK market.

Coconuts are largely grown by smallholders, and tree crops (cocoa is another example) grown in the poorer parts of the world are often associated with poverty.

One reason is that they take years to establish, and after farmers have invested in them they’re pretty much stuck and have to just keep harvesting them, no matter what they’re getting for them. This tends to lead to low and volatile prices, and most coconut farmers are very poor.

Fairtrade, with its floor price and a price premium, was partly designed to help with this issue. However, there are no Fairtrade brands currently available since Lucy Bee coconut milk was discontinued.

Hemp

Hemp is naturally pest and weed resistant, and it uses little water and nutrients. It is also good at fixing nutrients into the soil and works as a reasonable carbon sink as well. Large scale hemp cultivation can be difficult due to its association with its close relative, the cannabis plant. In the UK you need to obtain certain licenses to grow hemp as it is considered a controlled substance, despite it being the more well-behaved member of the family that will categorically not get anyone high.

Range of plant milks in bottles and jars

Which plant based milk brands are in this guide?

Some brands have been removed from the guide, such as Lucy Bee fairtrade coconut milk, which was a Best Buy. Lucy Bee stated that the knock-on effect of the pandemic led to increased shipping costs and de-listing by supermarkets, which unfortunately made this product unviable.

Other brands have been left out as they are less widely available, such as Isola Bio or Ecomil, or are no longer available, such as Granovita, or Holland & Barrett own brand.

We have not included supermarket own brands on the table, but we comment on their prices, what they sell, and why we should use other retailers if possible. Our guide to supermarkets has more detail about their ethics and environmental records.

Who owns vegan milk brands?

Most brands in the top half of the table received a Company Ethos mark for being from entirely vegan companies:

However, as with vegan cheese and meat-free alternatives, there are a number of non-vegan brands making and selling vegan milk.

Non-vegan companies

Plant milk brands linked to dairy and animal sectors

  • Almond Breeze Owner Blue Diamond also sells products containing dairy and egg.
  • Alpro  Owner Danone is a major user of dairy.
  • Bruce Owner Soulfresh also sells a range of dairy kefir and yoghurt products. The company also has investment from True. True invests in other companies selling animal products (such as Serious Pig which sells pork snacks).
  • Good Hemp Part-owner Inverleith also part-owns other brands that use animal products.
  • Jord Owner Arla is a dairy company.
  • Linda McCartney Owner Hain Celestial owns other brands that use meat and dairy.
  • Sharpham Park Is a spelt farm which includes a herd of deer used for meat.
  • Sojade Owner Olga has several other dairy brands.
  • Wunda Owner Nestlé is a major user of dairy.

Check out our article highlighting seemingly ethical brands which are owned by unethical companies.

Which vegan milk brands make what kind of plant milk?

On the score table we have indicated where a brand only makes one or two types of milk. But some brands make a broader range so the table below lists all the brands in this guide.

Type Brand
Almond Almond Breeze, Alpro, Bruce, Califia Farms, Glebe Farm, Linda McCartney, Plenish, Provamel, ReRooted, Rude Health, The Bridge
Brazil nut The Bridge
Buckwheat The Bridge
Cashew Alpro, Plenish, ReRooted, Rude Health
Chickpea Rude Health, The Bridge
Coconut Alpro, Bruce, Glebe Farm, Koko, Linda McCartney, Plenish, Provamel, ReRooted, Rude Health, The Bridge
Hazelnut Alpro, Plenish, ReRooted, Rude Health
Hemp Good Hemp, JÖRÐ, Sojade
Oat Alpro, Bruce, Califia Farms, Glebe Farm, Linda McCartney, Minor Figures, Oatly, Oato, Plenish, Provamel, ReRooted, Rude Health, The Bridge
Pea Mighty, Sproud, Wunda
Potato Dug
Quinoa The Bridge
Rice  Alpro, Linda McCartney, Provamel, Rude Health, Sojade, The Bridge
Soya Alpro, Glebe Farm, Linda McCartney, Plamil, Plenish, Provamel, Rude Health, Sojade, The Bridge
Spelt Sharpham Park, The Bridge
Tigernut Rude Health

Rebel Kitchen make their milk with "a blend of organic & sustainable plants", which varies according to the type e.g. barista, but they use coconuts, cashews, oats, fava beans, sunflower seeds, and hemp protein.

How much do plant milks cost?

As with many foods and products there is a price difference for plant milks, with cheaper supermarkets at one end and smaller companies at the other.

Should I buy vegan milk from a supermarket?

With Tesco own-brand dairy milks ranging from 58p per litre (only for large 3.4l bottles) to £1.22 per litre for a small pint bottle (or £1.24/litre for 2 litres of organic), its own-brand soya milk prices are actually cheaper – at 55p non-organic and £1.15 organic.

Supermarket own brands are cheapest generally, but supermarkets don’t score well in our ratings, partly as they are involved in so many complex supply chains that its almost impossible for them to guarantee good conditions for workers or animals across the board. Many are also involved in tax avoidance and pay their directors obscene amounts of money.

If we look at non-supermarket brands, Yeo Valley organic dairy milk is £1.65 for a litre in Tesco, so the cheapest organic soya or oat from a health food shop also compares well, at £1.50 or £1.75.

Health food and wholefood shops around the country are usually small independent businesses, and probably source from ethical wholesalers such as Suma, Infinity or Essential, all of which are workers’ cooperatives, and vegetarian only. These are all good reasons to support your local wholefood shop if you are able to.

Linear line from 50p to £3.50 with prices of different brands of vegan milk
Infographic (C) Moonloft

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Oat milk recipe

A growing number of people are making their own own milk, to save on packaging and to save money. Here's one recipe:

  1. Soak one cup of oats in water overnight, or at least 15 mins.
  2. Drain water.
  3. Blend oats in a blender with 3 cups water, a pinch of salt and a little vanilla essence.
  4. If you want a sweetened version, add a couple of dates.
  5. Strain through a sieve or preferably muslin.
  6. The remaining oats can be used in pancakes, porridge, smoothies etc.
  7. Keep the finished oat milk in the fridge in a glass bottle or screw top jar.

There are hundreds of variations on this recipe and other plant milk recipes easily found online. Making your own also encourages you to use the left-over pulp for other cooking meaning you get the full nutrition of your chosen plant ingredient.

Hand squeezing bag of oat pulp above bowl of liquid

Which is the best plant milk for coffee?

Things have moved on a bit from the days of plant milks constantly curdling in coffee. Many brands now add an acidity regulator to prevent this, or have a barista version designed especially for coffee, which is often oat milk. However if you’re new to plant milk, it might take a bit of testing to find your preferred taste.

If you’re using the milk for cereal or smoothies, there’s more flexibility on flavour, but for tea or coffee, if you don’t already drink it sugary, some plant milks might taste a bit sweet, or just not what you’re used to.

Soya milk tends to be more neutral tasting as long as its unsweetened, while oat is naturally sweeter and rice even more so. Pea milk is said to taste quite like dairy, nut milks should taste like the nut they’re made from, and potato milk, fortunately, doesn’t taste of spuds!

Vegan condensed milk

If you’re into baking and looking for a vegan alternative to condensed milk, there are options.

The famous Nestlé brand, Carnation, does have a vegan version, made from oats and rice, but we recommend avoiding Nestlé if possible. Nestlé is the target of the world’s longest running boycott for its irresponsible marketing of breast milk substitutes, which has been classed by the Access to Nutrition Index as “a threat on global health”.

You can also make your own vegan condensed milk based either on tinned coconut milk, cashews, or soya milk powder.

How eco-friendly is vegan milk packaging?

The vast majority of plant milks are sold in litre cartons, although Califia use plastic bottles for some milky drinks.

Oato and ReRooted, two of our Best Buys, use reusable glass bottles. They both gained half a Product Sustainability mark because their milks are in glass bottles that are collected and reused, and Oato gained another half mark for using only existing milk rounds. It also sells pint sizes which might suit some better than litres.

Minor Figures has refill stations, the locations of which can be found on its website. It may be possible to refill smaller size bottles here too.

While the environmental impact of packaging types varies somewhat, it’s a small proportion of your plant milk’s carbon footprint. A litre Tetra Pak carton has a carbon footprint of around 40 grams, which is only about 3-6% of the footprint of the contents.

The bigger carbon difference is between choosing plant milk over dairy, where you can at least halve the carbon impact.

Plant milk vs dairy milk packaging

The carbon impact of producing a plastic bottle is around three or four times that of a carton. So, even with their different recycling rates, cartons work out better than plastic. However, if you make your own plant-based milk – or buy from the brands that reuse glass bottles – you can avoid the whole issue of cartons and plastic altogether!

Cartons (most plant milks)

  • 75% card, but layered with plastic, and for long-life cartons, aluminium too.
  • Recyclable when materials are separated.
  • Globally only 27% are recycled, but collected kerbside in most of the UK.

Plastic bottles (most dairy milks are in Polythene (PE) bottles)

  • Recyclable back into bottles, in theory.
  • 60% of plastic bottles in general (including other plastic types) are recycled in the UK.
  • Dairy milk plastic bottles may be recycled into plastic bags, black sacks etc
Drawing of a milk van with green plants growing in the back
Image by Richard Liptrot

Nutrition of plant milks

While dairy milk is uniquely high in protein, that is because it is made for baby mammals which are not eating any other foods. As the Vegan Society says, it is completely possible to get enough protein from food sources such as beans, nuts and pulses.

Grams of protein per 100ml  
Cow 3.5g
Soya 3-3.15g
Pea, chickpea 2-3g
Almond, cashew, hazel, Brazil nut, spelt, buckwheat, quinoa, hemp, tiger nut, potato 0.5-1g
Oat 0.2g
Rice, coconut 0.1g

Plant milk does contain protein, as the general figures in this table show. But check the nutrition label of any given product for more information, as some may add more in. For example, Dug potato milk also contains pea protein which brings its protein levels per 100 ml up to 1.3 g. 

Score table ethical and environmental issues with plant milk

Carbon Management and Reporting

This is the first time we have used our new carbon management and reporting rating in the plant milk guide.

The following companies received our best rating for carbon management and reporting: Nestlé (Wunda), Oatly, Sharpham Park, Oato, Plamil and The Organic Plantmilk Company (ReRooted).

Many companies received a middle rating because although not reporting on their emissions or demonstrating plans to reduce them, they were providing a lower carbon alternative, and not dairy milk. This included: Veg of Lund (Dug), Glebe Farm, Good Hemp, First Grade International (Koko), Watkins Drinks (Mighty), Minor Figures, Rude Health, Rebel Kitchen and The Bridge.

Britvic (Plenish), Califia Farms and Hain (Linda McCartney) also received a middle rating for meeting some, but not all, of the criteria.

The two big dairy companies in this guide, Arla and Danone, also received middle ratings. On the one hand they were publishing emissions data and had reduction targets approved by the Science Based Targets initiative. On the other hand, they operate in the high-impact sector of dairy farming, and while demonstrating some success at reducing impacts, both had also received criticism around whether reality would really match up to their claims.

These companies all received our worst rating: Blue Diamond (Almond Breeze), Soulfresh (Bruce), and Olga (Sojade).

Palm oil

While palm oil wasn’t found in plant milk itself, many of the companies in this guide are using it in their other products.

Blue Diamond Growers (Almond Breeze), Soulfresh (Bruce), Hain (Linda McCartney), Nestlé (Wunda), Oatly, and First Grade International (Koko) all received our worst rating for their palm oil policies.

Danone and Arla received our middle rating.

Plamil received our best rating, and the rest of the companies were found to be palm oil-free.

Executive Pay

While the cost-of-living crisis is forcing many people to make difficult choices, the top executives of larger companies are probably not worrying too much about having to tighten their belts.

The following companies lost a whole mark under our Anti-Social Finance category for paying executives annual salaries over £1 million: Arla (Jörð), Britvic (Plenish), Danone (Alpro and Provamel), Hain (Linda McCartney) and Nestlé (Wunda).

Companies that paid annual salaries over £250,000, or companies with turnovers above £1 billion that were not publishing executive salaries, also lost half a mark. These were: Oatly and Blue Diamond (Almond Breeze).

Organic companies

The Bridge, Rebel Kitchen and ReRooted each gained a whole company ethos mark because they are fully organic companies.

Play fair with plant milk

The Vegan Society in the UK reports that various public health initiatives for children promote animal milk, but do not include plant milk. Initiatives affected include the Healthy Start Scheme (Best Start Foods Scheme in Scotland), the EU School Milk subsidy scheme, School Food Standards, UN School Milk Day (25 September) and the Nursery Milk Scheme.

The Vegan Society want to see all these schemes include fortified plant milk as well, for any child who can’t or doesn’t want to drink dairy. They have a range of template letters to download and send to political representatives, as well as suggested tweets for occasions such as #WorldPlantMilkDay on 22 August, or #WorldSchoolMilkDay on 25 September.

Find out more on the Vegan Society web page.

Companies behind the brands

Perhaps the most well-known and widely available plant milk brand is Alpro, owned by Danone. However, Danone’s main focus is dairy products. Like Nestlé, Danone has received criticism for its marketing practices in relation to baby formula.

Another of Danone’s major ventures is bottled water, also fraught with ethical issues. In 2021, people from the Nahua Indigenous communities occupied the bottling plant of Bonafont water, a Danone subsidiary, in the Puebla region of Mexico. They were protesting the exploitation and depletion of water resources in the area by Bonafont and other private companies. After months of occupation to stop production and allow the water table to rise again, residents were evicted in February 2022. Solidarity actions are encouraged around the world.

Minor Figures, a certified B-Corp, started as a coffee company but branched into oat milk partly for its own milky coffee products. It describes itself as “an independently owned startup” with investors.

It was recently announced that the company has received investment from Danone, a major processor of dairy products. It is currently unclear what percentage the investment equates to. This means that the activities of Danone are not currently affecting Minor Figures’ Ethiscore, but if more information becomes publicly available this may change.

Want to know more?

If you want to find out detailed information about a company and more about its ethical rating, then click on a brand name in the Score table. 

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Additional research by Francesca de la Torre