If you’re avoiding dairy for reasons of health or principle, you have more choices than ever, and some of them even taste good. There are dairy substitutes made from soy (Silk, introduced in 1977, is one of the oldest soy-milk brands, and still one of the most elegantly named), oats (Oatly, based in Sweden and famous in the U.S. for its whatever advertising), nuts (Texas-based MALK, whose weird all-caps name may have been inspired by that episode of The Simpsons), or peas (Ripple, based in the Bay Area, and aren’t you glad they didn’t name it Pea Milk?).
“Malk: Now with Vitamin R.” Via Simpsons Wiki
Then there are the dairy alternatives that tell you only what they aren’t: Not Milk, NotMilk, and “Shh … This Is Not MLK,” with a white droplet replacing the I in milk, to ensure that you don’t confuse it with not–Martin Luther King Jr.
That’s right: Three brands with three virtually identical names—none of them telling you what the product is, only what it’s not.
The first one I learned about was Not Milk. It’s produced by a Chilean company, NotCo, and it began appearing in U.S. Whole Foods stores in November 2020. I learned about it from a tweet from New York–based linguist Lisa Davidson.
I know there's backlash against using 'milk' for non-dairy things, but this name is...awful.— Dr. Lisa Davidson (@lisa_b_davidson) March 15, 2021
"Hey hon, can you pick up some Not Milk?"
"Not milk? Like, oat milk? Soy milk?"
"Um, it's called Not Milk."
"What's it made of? Soy? Almonds?"
"Uh, I have no idea. Not milk, I guess." pic.twitter.com/G3MXyLLx1M
The Chilean Not Milk has a headline-grabbing story: It was created, The Wall Street Journal reported last year, using artificial intelligence and machine learning:
NotCo’s machine learning tool, which it calls Giuseppe, taps into the company databases of thousands of plants and plant-based ingredients. By analyzing the molecules in the food, it learns which combinations make, say, cow’s milk and then generates formulas to match. … After Giuseppe develops an initial formula, a group of NotCo food scientists and chefs create prototypes. Humans test them for flavor, texture and appearance, among other traits. They provide feedback to the system, such as “less sugar,” and the machine learning continues to refine the recipes.
I haven’t figured out the significance of the ™ in Not Milk’s logo. I found no record of the brand in the USPTO database.
NotCo makes other Not products besides Not Milk.
Then there’s Shh … This Is Not MLK, which OrenH spotted in a Jerusalem supermarket.
In a follow-up tweet, Oren wrote: “Hey, if I were asked to bring back something that's not milk from the supermarket, I would let my imagination run wild... Dish soap? Cheese grater? Espresso capsules? All qualify.”
Linguist Joshua Raclaw quipped that it was “the milk that dare not speak its name,” and added:
They had so many options pic.twitter.com/Wqot2lz1Vy— Joshua Raclaw (@joshraclaw) August 10, 2021
This Not MLK is made by a Belgian company, Alpro. (No, not the dog-food company Alpo.) According to a June 2021 story in Retail Detail, a European trade publication, Alpro’s dairy alternatives are made from oats and pea protein: “Just like actual milk, they come in both full and semi-skimmed versions and can be used in the same way: in a cup of coffee, with breakfast cereals, straight in a glass, etc.”
Finally, there’s NotMilk (one word), the only not-milk with a registered U.S. trademark (since 2016).
$10 a pint. Yikes!
This not-milk is made in Brooklyn from nuts and seeds, so I suppose you could call it a Nut Not Milk.
One more lactose-negative name: Unmilk, a German company with a very cool logo (I would wear one of their T-shirts!) and a tagline that’s ambiguous in the best way: “No Milk Is Better.” Yes, ambiguity can be a virtue.
Is it time for a song? It is.