Imitation milk and Imitation dairy-based beverages

imitation milk

The population of the world is increasing at a fast pace and in turn overcrowdedness and lack of sufficient food increase.

Asia has 4,641,054,775 people as per 2020 data. This population consumes grains, pulses or beans, fish, rice, but relatively less milk.

Here Imitation Milk comes into the picture.


Definition of Imitation Milk

According to FAO, Imitation milk is prepared when one or more milk constituents have been replaced with other ingredients and the resulting final product resembles the original product.

For example- Filled Milk( Filled cheese) is a substitute dairy product in which all or part of the butterfat is replaced with other fats and oils.

Similarly, Sodium caseinate ( a component of casein protein in milk) is found to be an excellent and inexpensive substitute for Skim milk.

According to the FDA, food is an imitation, if it is a substitute for other food or it resembles other foods. However, it is nutritionally inferior to that original food.

Nutritionally inferior means any reduction in the content of an essential nutrient that is present in a measurable amount.

Now a measurable amount per serving means 2% or more of the RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance).

Ingredients used in Imitation dairy products

1. Skim milk

Skim milk is that portion of milk that remains after milk fat has been removed by cream separation.

Moisture content– 90.8 wt %

Protein– 3.41 wt %

Fat- 0.18 wt %

Lactose- 4.85wt %

Amul and Nestle Skim Milk | These are the only two brands of… | Flickr

2. Non-fat dry milk

Skim milk with only fat and water removed. Max 5% Moisture content, <1% fat.

3. Casein

Prepared from fresh milk by precipitation with acid @ pH 4.6. If acid is not available, the rennet enzyme can also be used for precipitation.

Optimum Nutrition – 100% Casein Gold Standard | Faster diges… | Flickr

4. Sodium caseinate

Made by solubilization of isoelectric casein with (food-grade caustic soda) and subsequent spray drying.

5. Soy protein isolate

Prepared from defatted soy flakes by separating and spray drying soluble protein fraction. The dry isolate has around 90-95% protein.

6. Whey Protein Concentrate

Made by Ultrafiltration (UF). It is a demineralized product rich in protein and with much lactose removed. It has the advantage of being soluble over a pH range of 2-10 unless heated above 70°C.

7. Vegetable fats

Important ingredient in Imitation dairy products.

Vegetable fats contribute-

  • organoleptic properties like richness and mouthfeel
  • provide viscosity
  • an important role in air-incorporating capability
  • Increase in whitening capacity (in non-dairy creamers)
  • add tenderness (in imitative cheese)

8. Emulsifier

The emulsifiers used in imitation dairy products formulations are esters of edible fatty acids of vegetables or animal origin and polyvalent alcohols such as glycerol, polyglycerol, sorbitol, etc.


Lecithin is a natural emulsifier extracted from soybean oil.

Many emulsifiers also consist of small amount of sodium or potassium salts of fatty acids, e.g. Sodium oleate.

Also, food emulsifiers reduce the surface tension of the oil-water interface, and they adhere to the surface of oil droplets and thus prevent their coalescence.

Emulsifiers also stabilize the basic sodium caseinate vegetable oil emulsion found in many imitations products.

9. Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are used as sweetening agents. They constitute good fractions of total solids in imitative dairy products.

Major sugars used are Cane sugars and corn syrup solids at a sweetener level of 42 DE.

Carbohydrates - Highway Sign image

10. Stabilizers

Examples are colloidal polysaccharides (gums) like locust bean gums, carrageenan, sodium alginate, guar gum, CMC, used to thicken or increase the viscosity.

Some polysaccharides have specific properties like-

  • improvement of freeze-thaw stability, e.g xanthan gum
  • Retardation of growth of ice crystals, e.g. CMC or sodium alginate
  • Prevention of Syneresis, e.g. CMC, xanthan gum, guar gum, etc.
  • Improvement of cheese meltdown, e.g. locust bean gum
  • Stabilization of O/W emulsion, e.g. Hydroxypropylmethylcellulose
  • Stabilization of dispersions, e.g. Cocoa powder

11. Additives

Food grade salt is used as flavourant.

Food grade Disodium hydrogen phosphate & sodium citrate are used as buffers for pH control in “non-dairy creamers” & emulsifiers in Imitation cheese.

Manufacture of dairy products

Imitation dairy products may be formulated with ingredients of dairy origin. These products are processed with standard dairy equipment as that of the dairy industry.

Some of the processes are shown below-

a. Homogenization is used to disperse fat uniformly and to control the size of globules, which range from  1 to 3μm in the finished emulsion.

File:Homogenizing valve.svg - Wikimedia Commons

b. Pasteurization can be done by either batch or vat method or by the HTST method.

Batch pasteurization at 63°C for a minimum of 30 minutes. Also, for high fat and sugar levels temperature is 71C for 30 minutes.

HTST is a continuous process that pasteurizes milk at 74°C for 15 sec.

File:Simple Pasteurization.png - Wikimedia Commons

Procedure flowchart

Below shown is the flowchart for general processing steps for the manufacturing of imitation dairy products. (Except for sweetened condensed milk (80-90°C). TIme for HTST is 0.5-2min and 10min for batch.

Different Imitation dairy Products

1. Imitation Milk- Manufactured and sold in such areas where fresh milk is unavailable. E.g. Islands of Pacific ocean or military installation, etc.


Source of Protein= Non-fat dry milk or fluid skim milk

Sodium caseinate= used with concentrated whey protein and corn syrup solids.

Imitation milk has-

  • 3.25% vegetable fat
  • 0.15-0.25% mono and diglycerides
  • 9% nonfat dry milk solids
  • Coloring agents
  • Flavoring ingredients
  • Vitamins

Here, among the procedures,

Ist stage Homogenization pressure- 13.7 MPa

IInd stage Homogenization pressure- 3.4 MPa


2. Soy milk- It is sold to vegetarians, infants (those unable to consume cow milk), etc. If Soy milk is to be sold in the US, it must be labeled as Imitation Soy milk according to the FDA standard.

  • Solids- 11.7%
  • Proteins- 3-3.2%
  • Oils & Fats- 4.1%
  • Sugars- 4%
  • Ash- 0.4%

File:Soymilk Nog.jpg - Wikimedia Commons


3. Imitation Sour cream- made from imitation cream formulation of –

  • 17.5% vegetable fat
  • 9% non-fat milk solids
  • 0.5% mono & triglycerides



4. Non-dairy creamers- creams used to whiten coffee. Has low price, convenience, good shelf life. It is marketed in liquid, frozen, or powder form.


5. Spray-dried non-dairy creamers- The main ingredients are vegetable fats, emulsifiers (sodium caseinate), and carbohydrate sweeteners.

The formulations of powder are designed in such a way to provide sufficient fat to whiten coffee when added in powdered form, and sufficient protein to encapsulate the oil during drying.

A typical spray-dried non-dairy creamer contains

  • Corn syrup solids (64%)
  • Hydrogenated coconut or soybean oil (25.75%)
  • Sodium caseinate (4%)
  • Dipotassium Hydrogen Phosphate (2%)
  • Glycerol mono or di-stearate (1.3%)
  • Anticaking agent (1,45%)
  • Moisture (1%)
  • Coating and flavouring agent

Spray Dryer Working Animation HD GIF | Gfycat


6. Evaporated imitation milk

Manufactured by the conventional method of water removal by vacuum pan evaporation or by recombination of non-fat dry milk solids with water and vegetable fat to achieve the required solids level.


7.Sweetened condensed imitation milk

Manufactured by vacuum pan concentration, to a limited extent.

The selection of non-fat dry milk is important to avoid quality problems, such as excess viscosity in the finished product, especially on storage.

High-grade crystalline sugar and partially hydrogenated Lauric or palm fats are used.

It consists of

  • 20 % non-fat solids,
  • 8 % fat,
  • 45.4 % sucrose with total solids of 73.4 %


8. Imitation Cheese

Most commonly, there are two types of Imitation Cheese.

One is made with casein, vegetable fat, and water. The other is made with skim milk and vegetable fat and then fermented.

File:Cheese.jpg - Wikimedia Commons

The ingredients required are

  • skim milk or nonfat milk,
  • acid or rennet casein (preferably rennet),
  • partially hydrogenated soybean oil,
  • salt,
  • a coloring agent,
  • and disodium hydrogen phosphate.

The flavors used are prepared by lipase and protease hydrolysis of cheese trimmings.


Dairy Products, Imitation by 
PETER P.NOZNICK, RETIRED | Beatrice Companies, Chicago, Illinois 60602, United States

Ullmann’s Encyclopedia of Industrial Chemistry

Share this article :)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *