Most popularly used as a milk substitute when added to tea or coffee, a non-dairy creamer is available in either liquid or powder form, and does not contain lactose, which is why it’s not considered a dairy product.
Most non-dairy creamers are suitable for those who are lactose intolerant; however, some do contain sodium caseinate, a derivative of the milk protein casein. There has been considerable debate about whether or not the addition of sodium caseinate allows the creamer to lose the tag of ‘dairy’, since it’s simply a modified form of casein. This in turn led to an FDA verdict, which claimed that sodium caseinate could not be considered a dairy product despite its origin, because it goes through several processes before its addition, which result in a structural alteration that renders it non-dairy.
In the effort to make a milk substitute taste as much like milk as possible, manufacturers of non-dairy creamers use a number of ingredients to mimic the texture, flavor, and taste of real milk. Although different makes may contain variations, the basic ingredients of powdered milk substitutes will generally consist of the following.
The subject of much debate, sodium caseinate is a derivative of the milk protein casein, generally added to add the flavor of milk. Casein makes up close to 20% of the proteins in milk―sodium caseinate is typically derived as a reaction between the acidic casein, and sodium hydroxide. It is sodium caseinate that deters some vegans from using such creamers―there are soybean based creamers that form an option for those with such restrictions.
Vegetable Fats/ Hydrogenated Oils
Although there are some non-dairy-non-fat creamers, the majority use hydrogenated fats to impart the rich, creamy texture characteristic of milk, and half and half, to these milk substitutes. These hydrogenated fats and vegetable oils include cottonseed oil, palm oil, and soybean oil, among others. Some creamers may also contain mono and diglycerides to further add creaminess and texture.
This is an extract from a type of seaweed, used as a stabilizer, and an emulsifying agent that prevents separation of the components of the finished product. Carrageenans are a type of polysaccharide, often used as a vegetarian substitute for gelatin, as well as thickening agents, because of their ability to form gels at room temperature.
Corn syrup, Sugar
The slight sweet flavor that is inherent in dairy products is derived from lactose. On removal of lactose, sugar, corn syrup, sodium stearoyl lactylate or other derivatives may be added to replicate the sweetness.
Natural and Artificial Flavor Additives
These are additional food additives that are added to increase palatability. Some products also offer flavored creamers such as French vanilla, hazelnut, and so on―these contain other extracts that contribute to the respective flavors.
Although available in two forms, liquid creamers seem to find more takers because of their texture, convenience, and likeness to milk. In granulated form, shelf-life is longer, though convenience of use is slightly compromised. Apart from the wisdom of choosing such processed products, their calories mean they aren’t particularly appreciated for their nutritional value. A single serving of a tablespoon (12 g) of unflavored non-dairy creamer in powdered form contains approximately 20 calories, all from carbohydrates and fats―pretty much ’empty’ calories. There are a variety of ingredients that go into the making of these products, so it’s important to take a good look at the label for any allergy information. For those who don’t face the restrictions of veganism or lactose intolerance, skim milk may be a better option to consider.