We are living through a bounteous time for dairy alternatives. There’s your classic soy, of course, and almond, hazelnut, cashew, coconut and, more recently, oat have all entered our lives and became featured players.
Whether you're fully vegan, trying to lessen your dairy intake or focused on finding small ways to help the planet, the growth in the alternative milk market has been unavoidable. None of them tastes particularly like cow's milk but that’s not the point. They emulate the texture and the creaminess, and help those who want to avoid milk for whatever reason – be it allergen, ethical or environmental.
You probably have your favourite (mine, for what it’s worth, is oat), determined by taste, texture or even cost. But if you’re looking for something else, there’s a new kid on the block (or should I say...field?): potato milk. And it’s called Dug, obviously.
What is potato milk?
Potato milk is made, shockingly, from potatoes. According to Veg of Lund, the Swedish brand behind Dug, the potato-based drink is made through a patented method of blending and emulsion of potatoes and rapeseed oil, a technique developed by Professor Eva Tornberg at Lund University in Sweden.
The blend was made to be, in their words, "deliciously creamy, makes perfect foam in coffee, works just like any other milk".
Why potato milk?
The real selling point of this dairy-free alternative is its sustainability credentials. Growing potatoes is twice as land-efficient as growing oats, has a far smaller climate footprint than dairy milk and requires a whopping 56 times less water than growing almonds.
On top of that, potatoes lay claim to a wealth of health benefits. According to Dug they’re loaded with antioxidants, contain all your essential nutrients and have a low glycemic load. They’re very allergen-friendly, too, avoiding your common allergens of nuts, dairy and gluten.
But what’s it actually like to drink?
Potato milk has a lot going for it: sustainable (we love the planet), novel (we love something new), Swedish (we love crime dramas). But it’s got a bit of an uphill battle to become part of our lives, even more so than your other dairy alternatives. A potato, frankly, does not scream ‘breakfast’ or ‘coffee break’. It feels wrong to have it involved with tea or coffee or cereal or, if you’re feeling fancy, pancake batter. An almond? Sure. An oat? Definitely. But a potato? That’s not to say that potatoes have no place at breakfast – there’s nothing quite like a hash brown – but for the majority of your breakfast food options it just doesn’t fit.
This is the reaction in the R29 team when Dug is introduced: reservation, incredulity, a lip or two curled in distaste. ‘Potato drink’ is not a particularly delicious phrase. But not everyone is sceptical. Some of us are bold in our consumption (see: insect snacks) and are open to trying anything, including liquidised potato. Given its sustainable and allergen-friendly credentials, there’s even hope in the air that it isn’t just passable but actually pleasant.
Unfortunately it doesn’t work out that way.
Four of us try two versions of Dug (barista and unsweetened), both alone and in tea and coffee, and the consensus is sadly not a positive one.
The unsweetened version was described as tasting like "off oat milk", "the inside of a balloon" and, controversially, "salty, which I quite like".
For a vegetable that is famously bland, the potato taste is surprisingly strong: sour and starchy and with a filmy, almost gritty mouthfeel. The barista version didn’t do much better. Though our resident tea drinker maintains the barista version tastes great in a cuppa, it didn’t fare as well in coffee – when poured into a black Americano it split, resulting in what looked like a cup full of soggy breadcrumbs. The taste was fine but it didn’t look particularly appetising.
Our consensus? For the most part, we’d prefer to keep the potatoes on the plate, thanks. It's a no from us.
For the curious and sustainably minded, Dug will be available from Waitrose next year in barista, original and unsweetened forms for between £2 and £4.