I grew up in the '90s, when cow-milk mania was at a fever pitch. I had a full glass each night to accompany my dinner, and every time I opened YM magazine, I was greeted by a new celebrity showing off their milk moustache as part of a dairy industry propaganda campaign that was sweeping the nation: everyone from Mandy Moore to Shaq were in on the game.
Yes, those were the glory days for Big Milk — days they must be looking back at longingly now, as consumers pass by the jugs of two-percent to stock up on any number of creamy-ish, plant-based beverage options now on the market.
Whether people are gravitating towards these drinks for health, compassion, environmental or flavour reasons, the global dairy alternative market was valued at $20 billion in 2020 and is expected to grow at a compound rate of 12.5 percent annually between now at the end of the decade. In other words: Cow milk is out! Literally anything else is in!
Rice mylk and soy mylk were early competitors, originally the go-to options for the lactose intolerant set, and then along came a variety of nut mylks to round out the grocery store shelves: almond, cashew, coco(nut). Oat mylk is a relatively recent addition to the alt-mylk scene, available like the others in a variety of sweetened, unsweetened, and vanilla-ified options for all of your milk-sub opportunities.
But in case that wasn't enough of a selection for the dairy-haters out there: please, welcome the humble buckwheat plant into the milk-alternative arena.
Vancouver's own Saint Michael Foods launched Buck mylk in 2020 — a new gluten-free, nut-free and, of course, dairy-free beverage made from Canadian buckwheat. It's a crop that's been hugely important to Canadian farmers historically, and one full of amino acids and calcium, so it's sort of a feel-good drinking experience... but more importantly, it's honestly pretty tasty. A little nutty, a little earthy, a little thicker and creamier than oat mylk — velvety, if you will. (The company is also producing gelato-style ice cream: flavours include buckwheat-mylk-based Strawberry Sass, Cocoa Loco, Maple Walnut and Vanilla Cool.)
I'll admit that, even as an alt-milk fan, there was something initially a little off-putting about the mere phrase "buckwheat mylk": for me, it conjured something grainy or grassy. But "oat mylk" is also yucky if you think about it too long, and a few weeks into splashing the Buck into my coffee and oatmeal, I wasn't thinking about the name at all.
Will Buck emerge the supreme faux milk in a crowded marketplace? Will buckwheat lattes become the bane of your local barista's existence? Only time will tell... but the Dairy Council shouldn't count on reclaiming its star status anytime soon.
Buck mylk and gelato available at Choices, Stong's, Nester's and a bunch of other local retailers.