Growing ethical, environmental and health concerns have encouraged demand for novel plant-based milk alternatives, yet it remains nebulous whether these products are nutritionally adequate as cow's milk replacements. The aim of this study was to conduct a cross-sectional survey of plant-based milk alternatives available in major Australian supermarkets and selected niche food retailers from November 2019 to January 2020 and assess two dietary scenarios (adolescents and older women) where dairy serves were substituted for plant-based alternatives against Australian Estimated Average Requirements (EAR). We collected compositional data from nutrition panels in juxtaposition with derivatives from the Australian Food Composition database, with a total of 115 products, including tree nuts and seeds (n = 48), legumes (n = 27), coconut (n = 10), grains (n = 19) and mixed sources (n = 10). Just over 50% of products were fortified, but only 1/3 contained similar calcium content to cow's milk. Indiscriminate substitutions might reduce intakes of protein and micronutrients, particularly vitamin A, B2, B12, iodine and zinc, and lead to reductions >50% of the EARs for protein, zinc and calcium in the chosen dietary scenarios. To avoid unintended dietary outcomes, it is vital that consumers make pragmatic decisions regarding dietary replacements for cow's milk.
Keywords: fortification; milk; milk alternatives; nutrient composition; plant-based alternatives; vegetarian.