Taste Test

Alaska, Arla, Bear Brand, and More: 7 Brands of Powdered Milk Drinks

September 2, 2019

We’ve talked about the pros of UHT-treated milk as far as convenience goes. But know what’s even better in that regard? Powdered milk. Made by evaporating milk to dryness (to be reconstituted by being stirred into water), it has the advantage of an even longer shelf life (up to 18 months!) and cheaper price while offering similar nutritional benefits to its fresh or UHT counterpart. More common in the Philippines is its less-pure (but often cheaper) alternative, powdered milk drinks, or powdered milk with other fillers or other ingredients that can enhance its taste and nutritional value. Not only are they marketed as an affordable way for kids and adults to get their daily glass of milk; they are also popular as an ingredient used in recipes like polvoron or instant pastillas. How do the different brands compare?

Alaska

Taken dry, you get the expected taste of milkiness in Alaska, bolstered by a mid-level sweetness and a rather strong amount of salt. When stirred into water the saltiness (thankfully) dissipates, and you get a somewhat malty-tasting milk drink that brings to mind the original Nesvita cereal drinks. (Remember those?)

Anchor

Anchor tastes generally similar to Alaska taken dry, but not as salty and with a touch more richness. This richness translates to an especially creamy milk drink when dissolved in water, with a corn-y, nutty flavor that reminds us of pancake batter (are we the only ones who eat those raw?).

Arla

Arla is the minimalist of the group, with the shortest ingredient list of only skimmed milk, palm oil, sucrose, soy lecithin, and vitamin A. When dry, you get the purest milk flavor and melt-in-the-mouth consistency, no added saltiness or sweetness (aside from what’s naturally found in the milk). When mixed into water however, you get a bland, watery drink that hardly tastes of milk—or of anything, really.

Bear Brand

This classic brand gives you a somewhat buttery, milky flavor that’s just a touch sweeter than Alaska and Anchor. Dissolved into water, you get a creamy mix with the said richness; it feels far from natural, but it does remind us of melted (fake) vanilla ice cream. (And sometimes that’s just all you need.)

Birch Tree

Birch Tree’s tastes similar to Anchor when taken dry, just a smidge sweeter and less salty. When mixed into water, you get a mellow, milky mix with just the right amount of creaminess and sweetness. It sounds plain on paper, but it stands out with its overall balanced, milky flavor.

Milk Magic

From the aroma of the dry mix alone, we detect a rather chemical note that translates over to the taste—and to be honest, this puts us off. This is a shame as it’s actually the least sweet of the group and would have worked well as a neutral base to mix with anything.

Nido

Nido gives you a buttery taste somewhat similar to Bear Brand, just a touch less sweet and a tad more starchy. Mixed in water, you initially get a somewhat toasty flavor that’s followed by the expected milkiness—it’s a rather strange flavor profile, but we’re not mad at it.

The Verdict: Anchor and Birch Tree

Anchor and Birch Tree stand out for different reasons: the former, for its especially creamy taste; the latter, for its more balanced and mellow profile. But they share the common traits of being tasty whether taken plain or prepared into a drink. In any case, we’d also give a shout out to Arla’s; it may taste bland when dissolved in water, but when consumed by itself it’s your best bet.

Patricia Baes SEE AUTHOR Patricia Baes

Trish thinks too much about everything—truth, existence.....and what’s on her plate. Her ongoing quest for a better relationship with food has led to a passion for cooking, gastronomy, and a newfound interest in its politics. She dreams of perfecting the art of making soufflé with her crappy toaster oven.

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