For most of us, days don’t start quite the same without a cup of coffee. Whether it’s from your local cafe, or percolated and poured into your favorite mug: it’s a ritual. The oat milk generation may be here, but now a sweeter and creamier alternative is booming: non-dairy creamers.
In fact, it’s expected to be worth around $7 billion by 2025, according to the global agency, Market and Research Biz.
But what are non-dairy creamers? Are they vegan – and, are they healthy?
Once known as tea or coffee whiteners, non-dairy creamers date back to the 1950s. Despite the name, however, they’re not always vegan-friendly.
What are non-dairy creamers made of?
Typically, non-dairy creamers are comprised of corn syrup, vegetable oil, lecithin, sugars, and flavorings. They come in liquid or powder form.
The vegan versions consist of far more nutrient-dense ingredients from natural sugars to cacao, nuts, and coconut. Primary ingredients usually include a sweetener such as sucralose, or cane sugar.
In coconut-based creamers, coconut milk is pressed and dried before it’s finely milled into a powder and added to other ingredients. Others include Xantham Gum, derived from sugar, which is used as a thickener.
Whilst lots of consumers infer dairy-free to mean plant-based – as is often the case – not all non-dairy creamers are in fact vegan.
When the products first surfaced they were designed to replace milk or cream. Moreover, they focussed on being much lower in both calories and fat with a long shelf life.
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Non-vegan ingredients to look out for in non-dairy creamers
As a result, some non-dairy creamer brands still use animal-derived products such as casein – a protein found in cow’s milk. It’s commonly listed as sodium caseinate and used to achieve a white color.
One example is the early icon of non-dairy creamers: Coffee-Mate, owned by Nestlé.
Other non-vegan ingredients include whey, a byproduct of cow’s milk.
Whilst the name is confusing, non-dairy creamers that aren’t vegan can still be branded dairy-free. This is because there isn’t currently a regulated definition for the term, under the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This means products containing milk derivates can be labeled dairy-free.
Other ingredients generally found in non-dairy creamers include lecithin, which is a fat found in both eggs and soybeans. However, if the lecithin is soy-based, it is often listed as such.
For people intolerant or allergic to lactose, non-dairy creamers offered a way to liven up black coffee. This caters to a large proportion of the global population, especially in many Asian countries where lactose is less commonly consumed in traditional diets.
However, to cater to vegans, the market has since expanded and now a range of vegan non-dairy creamer products are available.
Are non-dairy creamers healthy?
Non-dairy creamers were invented to replace other dairy products, such as double cream which may lead to health problems such as cancer and heart disease.
However, that doesn’t necessarily make them better for you, as many contain added sugars.
For example, the fructose-rich corn syrup often included in non-dairy creamers may lead to increased chances of developing type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure.
And, the sweeteners used in non-dairy creamers have disputable health risks.
Lots of scientific studies have conflicting outcomes on whether non-sugar sweeteners (NSS) commonly used in non-dairy creamers are beneficial over simple sugars, such as fructose and glucose found in fruits.
NSSs, also known as artificial sweeteners, are generally sweeter but contain fewer calories. This helps many non-dairy creamers achieve a lower calorie content.
A small list of NSSs are currently approved by the FDA, whilst others are currently declared unsafe.
According to the peer-reviewed British Medical Journal, there is less known about the potential harms that come with consuming them.
However, in a controlled study assessing various health implications of consuming either NSSs or simple sugars, the authors found no ‘significant’ differences in body weight. Moreover, both self-reported energy levels and the risk of developing forms of cancer were found to be similar.
Plant-based medic Dr. Michael Greger warns about non-calorie sweeteners, however.
This is because they may lead people to overeat and gain weight. He explains that this is due to signals sent in the brain when we taste sweetness. However, because of their low-calorie content, we aren’t able to slow down whilst consuming them in the same way we do when tasting simple sugars.
But not all plant-based non-dairy creamers contain artificial sweeteners.
For example, Laird Superfood, Inc. offers a range of Superfood Creamers which include cacao and turmeric.
In a statement sent to PBN, the company claimed: “Many foods are way over-processed, and highly manipulated to take the important natural balance out of the foods that are critical for our bodies to recognize and process them properly.
“You want minimally processed, or whole food plant-based products to truly make the difference.”
The 11 best vegan non-dairy creamers
Here are our top eleven non-dairy creamers that are suitable for vegans.
1. Laird Superfood
For its added nutritional benefits, Laird Superfood, Inc. is a leader in vegan non-dairy creamers.
The brand claims to be keto-friendly and includes cacao and turmeric in some of its offerings. Other flavorings include Chocolate Mint and Pumpkin Spice.
You can buy Laird Superfood Inc.’s creamers here
2. The Skinny Food Co.
Boasting zero-calories, The Skinny Food Co. has three Barista-style non-dairy creamers in different flavors. Moreover, it claims to be free from fat, sugar, gluten – and fit for anyone on a Weight Watchers plan.
Flavors include Chai Spice, Glazed Doughnut, Caramel Popcorn, and Irish Cream.
Find The Skinny Food Co. here
These non-dairy creamers promise ‘billowing clouds’ of smooth creaminess. The prime ingredients are Macadamia milk, sunflower oil, and coconut cream.
Moreover, flavors include Vanilla, Unsweetened Vanilla, Cinnamon, Chai, and Unsweetened.
You can shop Milkadamia’s creamers here
4. Coconut Cloud
Creamers by Coconut Cloud contain natural flavorings and powdered coconut cream. Happy Brain Coffee was created on the premise of feeding the brain healthy fats.
These creamers are higher in calories than others on the market, at between 40 and 70 per serving depending on the flavor.
Additionally, it can be used as an alternative to coconut milk in recipes.
You can shop Coconut Cloud’s creamers here
Separating it from the rest of the market is NutPods’ Cotton Candy flavor. Its non-dairy creamer contains natural flavorings and has ten calories per serving.
The company’s other creamers include nut-free French Vanilla, Coconut Macaroon, and Toasted Marshmallow.
You can buy NutPods creamers here
6. Honest To Goodness
Fresh on the market, Honest To Goodness uses ‘thoughtfully sourced’ ingredients sourced from around the world.
They make up the Himalayan Salted Caramel and Madagascan Vanilla Bean flavors, sweetened by organic cane sugar and natural flavors. Per serving, this creamer comes in at 30 calories.
You can shop the variety pack online here
7. Califia Farms
Better Half by Califia Farms is a creamy combination of coconut and almond and free from ‘fake sweeteners.
Moreover, its unsweetened, vanilla, and pumpkin spice vegan creamers contain just 15 calories per serving.
You can shop Better Half here
Coffee giant Starbucks has unveiled a range of coffee creamers. However, they’re not all vegan-friendly.
The plant-based options include almond and oat Caramel Flavored, and Hazelnut Latte. They also contain pea protein.
You can buy Starbucks’ creamer here
Danone-owned plant-based dairy brand Silk has three different creamers.
They are Almondmilk, Oat Yeah, and Soymilk – and come in a host of flavors including Toasted Hazlenut and Creme Brulee.
Silk also has its Oat Yeah oat milk in Cookie One and Vanilla, which is an extra creamy oat milk creamer that promises to ‘froth like a boss’.
You can locate Silk stockists online here
Vegan brand Unicreamer has a small ingredient list of pea protein, coconut-derived MCT oil, and sunflower lecithin.
Its flavors include Hazlenut, Mocha, and Unsweetened Original – and all claim to be suitable for anyone following a keto diet.
You can shop Unicreamer here
Creamers from MALK come in Unsweetened Oat and Almond, and Maple Oat + Pecan. Ingredients include organic oats and flaxseeds, which are loaded with omega-3 fatty acids.
You can find a store near you that sells MALK online here