Fairlife is the brand name for a new product from Coca-Cola that many are calling "designer milk." It looks and tastes (more or less) like regular milk but if you look at the nutrition facts panel, you'll see a very different picture: Compared with regular milk, Fairlife ultra-filtered milk is 50 percent higher in protein, 30 percent higher in calcium, and 50 percent lower in sugar.
That last bit about the sugar will surely resonate with consumers who have been hammered about eating too much sugar - but I think it's a bit of a red herring. When we talk about reducing your sugar intake, we're usually talking about added sugars and not the naturally occurring sugars in fruit and dairy products.
Nonetheless, milk that's higher in protein and lower in sugar certainly seems to be in step with the times.
How Do They Make It?
How is this nutritionally-enhanced milk created? The process is a little different than the one used to make Skim Plus milk, another enhanced milk product you might have seen in stores. Skim Plus is made by adding dried milk powder to skim milk.
Fairlife doesn't add anything extra to their milk. Rather, they pass milk through a series of specialized filters, which separate the fat, minerals, protein, sugars, and water from one another. These elements are then recombined in different proportions. And, as with normal milk, they skim off various amounts of fat to create whole, reduced fat, and fat free varieties.
Finally, they add an enzyme (lactase) which breaks the remaining lactose down into other smaller sugars (namely, glucose and galactose). So this milk is also lactose free.
Should You Drink Milk Made by Coca-Cola?
The fact that this new milk is manufactured by the makers of Coca-Cola makes a lot of people suspicious. After all, sugar-sweetened sodas have been singled out as a key cause of obesity in the U.S. -- and the companies that sell them to us (by the boatload) are often compared to cigarette manufacturers. Should we really be buying milk from these people?
You could actually see this as a good sign. Soda sales have been steadily declining for the last 10 years and Coca-cola is looking for new products to take up the slack. Designer milk is certainly a lot better for us than soda. Isn't it great to think that we consumers are actually leading companies to develop healthier products by voting with our dollars?
On the other hand, all that processing costs money, making this nutritionally enhanced milk a lot more expensive than natural milk -- and I'm not sure the added nutrition is really worth the added cost. We'll see how consumers "vote" on this new product.