Bugs yes, moo no: Dispelling an American myth about dairy and probiotics

Steve Demos — founder of White Wave Silk brands and NextFoods, makers of GoodBelly nondairy probiotic juices — took issue with Functional Ingredients' February cover story, "There is something about dairy." Here is his no-bull response...

Many years ago, I was quoted in a magazine as saying, "My job is to obsolete dairy." My history sure points to this as being a true statement. It's not that I don't like dairy products. Actually, I use some organic dairy products and think they're fine, BUT … I think there is a misconception that dairy products are sacrosanct and the only real choice to meet the nutritional and environmental challenges America faces today. This is just not true. Keep in mind that the No. 1 thing to do to individually impact global warming is to go vegetarian. Look it up: it's true.

In 30 years, I have co-founded and launched two successful vegetarian product companies — White Wave, the makers of Silk soy milk, and NextFoods, makers of GoodBelly probiotic fruit drinks, both of which carry nutritional benefits that are at least equal to, if not superior to, dairy milk and live-cultured yoghurt/kefir. These products are consumed by millions while delivering sound nutrition, and guess what … no moo. No dairy as in 'zero, zilch, nada.' These products are not anomalies. In fact, they are just the tip of the iceberg.

Probiotics (pro = for, biotics = life) are defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as "Live micro-organisms, which when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host." Notice that even the WHO does not state anything about dairy being the optimum medium of delivery here. Now, I am not here to tell you that yoghurt or dairy is something you shouldn't enjoy. I am here to dispel the American notion that powerful and hugely beneficial probiotic cultures are only in dairy foods.

It's not the dairy part that counts, it's the cultures and the fermentation that are important. To most, probiotics equal yoghurt. But yoghurt has little to do with it, except as a medium. In many cases this medium has been dairy protein, BUT … it isn't and doesn't have to be that way. We work with two powerful probiotic strains in GoodBelly — Lactobacillus plantarum 299v (Lp299v) and Bifidobacterium lactis (B. lactis). Neither of these cultures is grown in dairy or any other animal products. Lp299v is a very powerful patented probiotic, which has 15 years of research and 13 different human clinical trials behind it. It has been used by millions of Swedish families daily for 14 years in a cultured fruit juice called 'Proviva.' It even has a health claim and is used in hospitals. FACT: neither culture strain used in GoodBelly is of dairy or animal origin (the same as Proviva). In fact, LP299v was originally extracted from the human intestinal tract and then grown on oat flour. Its origin, efficacy and consumer acceptance clearly have nothing to do with dairy.

At Nextfoods we are proud of our history of innovation in emergent products. We're proud of our work to 'obsolete dairy' by showing mainstream America that health, wellness and even environmental improvement can be found in delicious products made without animals. So don't limit your thinking that the best probiotics are only in dairy products.

Top Bug at NextFoods,

Steve Demos

The opinion here does not necessarily reflect that of the staff of Functional Ingredients magazine or New Hope Natural Media. Send your no-bull comments to [email protected].

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