Supermarket Guy

Spilling the Beans

Soymilk (along with TVP, or Textured Vegetable Protein) was commercially introduced in the Philippines in the 1980s as a cost-effective solution to the rising price of meat and dairy products. But it took nearly 30 years for the concept of blending rehydrated soybeans in water and boiling its milky extract to finally become an everyday beverage. Some say this is a sign of our newfound interest in healthier lifestyles and plant-based diets. Others point to a 2007 DepEd order banning the sale of softdrinks in all school cafeterias, effectively forcing the beverage industry to create newer, “healthier” drinks.

This month’s Supermarket Guy gives you the lowdown on the top soymilk brands on offer. Rather than focusing on each brand’s purported health benefits (it’s still healthier by far to eat, say, plain tofu and water), we focus on portion size, sugar content, calorie count, and a nonce word we like to call “beanyness,” or how much of this proteinaceous bean you can actually taste.

Silk Soymilk Very Vanilla

(Php 53.00 per 8 oz. box)

BEANYNESS ★★☆☆☆

SWEETNESS ★★★☆☆

A staple of every Starbucks refrigerated shelf, Silk Soymilk embodies what many soymilk brands aspire for: premium positioning, good brand recall, and a flavor that says, “I can’t believe this isn’t real milk!” But alas, this all comes at a hefty price: at Php 53 (retail), this 8 oz. box is almost 50% more expensive than the next priciest competitor. Then again that’s pretty normal for anything bought at Starbucks.

If you’re a soymilk beginner (or if you just don’t like the idea of drinking soy), this US import is a good place to start. Just don’t buy it in quantity; Silk has a tendency to curdle, even under refrigeration. In less than a week, you might end up with a stash of expensive vanilla-flavored taho.

Vitamilk Soymilk Original Flavor

(Php 30.00 per 300 ml bottle)

BEANYNESS ★★★☆☆

SWEETNESS ★★★★☆

If sweet milk is what you’re into, then Vitamilk is your best bet. Imported from Thailand by Asia Brewery, the contents of these sturdy glass bottles have one of the highest amounts of sugar (and calories) per volume than the other brands reviewed. That is probably why it’s marketed more as an “energy” drink rather than a health drink. Vitamilk is also touted as an “environment-friendly” soymilk. According to the manufacturer, only non-GMO beans are used in the soymilk, and the glass bottles themselves can be returned for a deposit in some stores.

As a soymilk, the condensed milk-like flavor tends to mute most of the flavor of the bean. Fortunately, there is a darker “Vitamilk Energy” variant, which (despite what the title suggests) actually packs significantly fewer calories than the original flavor (217 vs. 250 calories) and has added rice, barley and sesame extracts, giving it a maltier (but not necessarily beanier) body.

Lactasoy Light Plus Collagen

(Php 25.00 per 250 ml box)

BEANYNESS ★★☆☆☆

SWEETNESS ★★☆☆☆

From a nutritional standpoint, Lactasoy Light is the strangest contender among the soymilk brands reviewed. The light pink packaging of this Thai brand advertises a chock-full of fortified nutrients like protein, collagen, vitamin E, and eight other vitamins and minerals. And for good measure, it even has less sugar than its original formulation. This is all good, until you notice it’s just 10 calories less (260 vs. 250 calories). All in all, Lactasoy Light actually has more calories per ml than a bottle of Vitamilk (original flavor).

That said, one would expect Lactasoy to taste sweeter than Vitamilk, but it doesn’t. It actually tastes less sweet and (unfortunately) less beany, and even less in vanilla taste. It’s almost like drinking a watered-down soymilk. So in a way, Lactasoy Light tastes like how a “light” soymilk should (that is, slightly bland and flavorless), but the calorie count is in a slightly opposite direction.

Miracle Soya Milk With L-Carnitine

(Php 42.00 per 350 ml bottle)

BEANYNESS ★★★★☆

SWEETNESS ★★★☆☆

Lastly, if you want your soymilk to have more soybean taste, then look no further than Miracle Soya Milk. Made by a local tofu and tokwa manufacturer from imported US soybeans, Miracle Soya Milk tastes (not surprisingly) like a liquified taho, and brings to mind all of the bean curd’s soybean goodness.

At 200 calories per 350 ml bottle, Miracle Soya Milk has the same calories per ounce as Silk, making it one of the least calorie-laden soymilks in the market. But to put this in context, a 12-oz (or 354 ml) bottle of regular cola has only 140 calories. Of course, most of those calories (if not all) are from sugar, and the calories from soymilk come from proteins and fats, as well as sugars. Health buffs, however, might still find Miracle Soya Milk a little too sweet. To seemingly make up for this, the company fortified their product with L-Carnitine, which could (under certain conditions) contribute to weight loss.

 

What’s clear, though, is that despite the advertised health benefits of soymilk, some brands can still pack the same sugary calories as an “unhealthy” softdrink. Ultimately, portion size is still key to a healthy diet, even if what you’re drinking is the “healthier” substitute.

Don’t know what to buy? Ask the Supermarket Guy! Send your questions and requests to review grocery items to supermarketguy.mb@gmail.com

About the author

Elias Guerrero, Jr.

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