FCIA Fine Chocolate Glossary

Alternative Milk/Mylk

Plant-based products sourced from nuts, seeds, rice, oats, or legumes and marketed and sold as alternatives to milk derived from mammals.

Source: U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)

Expert Perspective

The term milk generally refers to an opaque white fluid that is secreted from the mammary glands of female mammals (cow, goat, sheep, human, etc) for the nourishment of their young. This milk is often used to make butter, cheeses and yogurt as a food source for humans.

Classically, milk used to make milk chocolate comes from dairy cows and is converted into a dried powder so that it can be mixed with unsweetened chocolate and sugar without the milk chocolate becoming too viscous.

In contrast to mammal-derived milk; plant-based milks (sometimes spelled as mylks) are liquids, usually light in color and extracted from certain plants such as nuts (almonds, cashews), fruits (coconut), seeds (flax), grains (oats), and legumes (soybeans), etc.

The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is reviewing what should be labeled as milk. From the traditional perspective, any milk product other than cow’s milk (regardless of whether it is from a mammal or a plant) could be considered to be an alternative milk product. A few US craft chocolate makers utilize goat or camel milk and retain the traditional spelling of milk. However, the European Union has decided that milk can only be used for advertising products that originate from mammals.

Milk from different sources can be used to change the flavor or texture profile of a milk chocolate; however, people may choose to consume chocolate made with plant-based milk due to lactose intolerance or to avoid eating animal-based products. The nutritional profile of mammal-based milks can be substantially different than plant-based milks.

Próximamente versión en español

Entry added: October 16, 2023
Verified on: in progress

Authored by

Terry Wakefield, Principal
Chocolate Consultant

Kathy Wakefield, Principal
Marketer/Sales professional


Milk, mylk or drink: Do packaging cues affect consumers’ understanding of plant-based products?,” Luri Y.F. Baptista and Hendrik N.J. Schifferstein, Food Quality and Preference, May 2023.

Why alt-milk isn’t milk, according to the EU,” Anay Mridul, The Vegan Review, June 18, 2020.

Milk and Milk Alternatives: How Do They Compare?,” Oregon State University, Moore Family Center Food Coach, February 1, 2023.

Sour fight ends with FDA ruling soy and nut milks can still be called “milk”,” Beth Mole, Ars Technica, February 23, 2023.

The 9 Best Nondairy Substitutes for Milk,” Daisy Coyle, Healthline, January 17, 2018.

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