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Adventures With Soya Milk

We recently imported a couple of pallets of Bruno Fischer Soya Milk in 750ml glass bottles. We had several times tried to do so but their recent arrival in brown plastic crates, may unfortunately make them a one off. There are no standardised crates in the UK, let alone matching ones Euro-wide, and they are expensive to return to Germany. We had expected cardboard packaging.

What were we hoping to achieve? Several objectives, the first of which was to show that glass bottles could be used for soya milk instead of the ubiquitous multi layered tetra pak (not really very recyclable). When we first attempted a deal there was a 1litre wide neck bottle which we hoped to gather back in and ship to our colleagues at Daily Bread in Northampton for sterilising and refilling at their co-op. Even the bottle bank for the 750ml version is progress on tetras. Glass is sometimes forgotten as a quality impermeable barrier material. Plastics do allow minute exchanges with the outside and the contents and this can be reflected in the taste of some foodstuffs, but don't expect any activity from the FSA......

We also hoped to offer another brand beyond Provamel/Alpro particularly. While the latter has been among the better quality milks for many years, they are keen to sell cheaply to Asda et al and unhelpful to us and most of the independent sector where their business was created.

We have also looked at several European Soya Milks where use is now made of beans from Southern France and Germany. The Sojasun version, manufactured ,we think in Normandy, is particularly good with 8% soya content, if rather elusive in the UK (they have refused to sell to Unicorn several times). The success of Oat Milks and the Oatly creme in particular suggest non-dairy products will continue to spread and perhaps use raw materials nearer to home.

It is worth considering the glass bottle story a little further. Dairy 1 pint glass bottles continue (just about) to be collected and washed to be used again and again, upto 6 times. "Pop" companies such as Ben Shaws were using deposit bottles until recent times. It doesn't require a research grant to realise the energy cost/impact of reuse is much smaller than burying/burning/melting down, etc. Steeply rising energy costs may indeed force the return of such systems, where materials rise in value relative to labour costs. Maintenance of returnable systems through state regulation would have been an easy act and ultimately cheaper than reinventing them all from scratch.

Any comments on our Bruno Fischer experiment welcome; buyers@unicorn-grocery.co.uk

Last Modified - 7th July 2008

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