Recently, Coca-Cola announced the launch of a new milk product, Fairlife, which the company claims will cost twice as much as regular milk, but provides several “nutritional benefits”.
It isn’t all that surprising to see Coca-Cola getting into the milk business. Sales for both Coke and Diet Coke have been dropping, and consumers are increasingly becoming more health conscious. But is Fairlife really superior to regular milk, as the marketing suggests?
Let’s look at Coke’s 4 major health claims for their new product:
1. 50 percent more protein. While this may sound appealing, most American’s already consume more than enough protein to meet their needs, especially those who consume animal products, like milk.
2. 30 percent more calcium. The average adult requires about 1,000 mg of calcium per day, and 1 cup of conventional milk contains approximately 300 mg. Therefore, Fairlife milk is providing about 90 mg of additional calcium per cup.
3. 50 percent less sugar. The company reduced the amount of naturally-occurring lactose in the milk. While sugar has gained a bad reputation in recent years (as it should) dietary recommendations do not ask us to limit naturally-occurring sugars from fruit and dairy products. The over-consumption of added sugars is what leads to poor health. This is just a silly marketing ploy to make the milk sound more enticing.
4. Lactose Free. While 50% of the lactose has been eliminated, that still leaves 6g of lactose per serving. Which is why you will notice that lactase enzyme is added (similar to Lactaid milk), for those who are lactose intolerant to be able to digest it.
It should also be noted that the calorie count is exactly the same as regular milk – 80 calories per cup for skim, and 120 calories per cup for 2%. Since protein has been increased and sugar has been decreased (both by the same amount), and both contain the same number of calories per gram, the calorie count doesn’t change.
Coca-Cola also makes a chocolate version of Fairlife, which they proudly boast as only having 12g of sugar as compared with 24g found in most conventional brands.
Sounds great, right? Well, let’s remember that to get to this number, manufacturers reduced the amount of naturally-occurring sugar (the sugar health experts agree is not harmful) and replaced it with added sugar. And because 12g of sugar couldn’t possibly taste as sweet as 24g, the company added two artificial sweeteners, sucralose and acesulfame potassium. The packaging, of course, says nothing about these added sweeteners. They are buried in the ingredients list, where many consumers will either not notice them, or not recognize them as sweeteners.
Is Fairlife worth the price, or just a hyped-up product from the marketing geniuses at Coca-Cola? I’d go with the latter. The only real nutritional benefit is the added calcium, which at 90 mg per cup, you could easily obtain from a serving of chickpeas, acorn squash, or almonds – and you’d be gaining a lot of other nutritional benefits too.