The problems of using soya milk in cappuccinos and lattes may now have been solved. The Soya Group of Cheshire has finished its testing and has produced Sunrise Café Expert, a non-GMO product which is expected to work in the demanding context of the modern espresso coffee sector.
Up to recently, it was thought that the demand for soya milk came mainly from the vegan and lactose-intolerant sections of the community, and that these consumers were willing to put up with some of the curiosities of the soya product.
However, says Soya Group marketing manager Robin Gleave, the market for soya milk is now a mainstream one, and as a result, there has been a great need for a soya milk which performs well with an espresso machine.
"The UK market for soya milk is about 80 million litres, expected to double in the next five years, and the majority of this market is no longer vegetarians. It has become the lifestyle choice is for a healthier product, for Joe Public.
"This is why, in the café situation, soya is almost a default item in the States, although in the UK, it has been largely a menu footnote, which has limited the market."
The technical needs of the espresso coffee sector have been a major hurdle.
- "We have had to create the soya milk which no longer needs to be regarded as a nuisance by the barista," says Robin Gleave.
"Curdling has been an acknowledged problem with soya. This is not visually appealing, which makes it a problem in catering. Ordinary soya has a natural yellowish appearance, which also tends to put people off!
"And soya milk has not always worked well at high temperature, in the steaming and foaming for espresso-based drinks - some cafes have even served drinks at lower temperature to get over this problem.
"And in years gone by, soya was 'an acquired taste'. People had to persist until their palate got used to it, because it's true that soya does taste like soyaâ¦ even though all soya milks did taste slightly different.
"We have worked towards a blander product, and ours tastes somewhere between a maltiness, a beaniness, and a nuttiness. It steams and foams well, holds its foam, tastes right, and looks rightâ¦ ours is white.
- In some coffees it enhances the coffee taste. It has no natural sweetness, and although we make some unsweetened soya milk, for café use we have produced a 'slightly sweetened' one.
"These solutions took a little while, but it was relatively straightforward. We have turned the tables on what was the market leader, and it's curious that no other brand did it - they could have done it if they bothered to try!"
Shelf life is twelve months, ambient or chilled; national distribution is already set up.
By Ian Boughton