Fairlife has taken milk, added more of the good stuff and less of the bad stuff, and presented a product that is still milk but gives you more of what milk provides.
More protein: 13 g vs. 8 g (all comparisons for 8 oz. serving). More calcium: 370 mg vs. 276 mg. Half the sugar and no lactose.
More price too, but that isn't a surprise.
You do have to get over the stigma of drinking milk made by Coca-Cola. That does sound disturbing.
Fairlife offers some key advantages, so much so that we couldn't help but try the product. We tested the milk against a milk product comparable in terms of price: organic milk. We sampled whole milk versions of both for a fair comparison.
In my world, there are two major reasons to use milk: by itself and in cereal.
Fairlife by itself does have an aftertaste. My palate can tell the difference between Fairlife and organic milk. In a taste test straight up, organic milk would win 10 times out of 10. The taste difference isn't that significant but there is a difference.
We tried both milk products in cereal: 1 cup Grape-Nuts with 8 oz. of milk. The difference was similar but a lot less noticeable. Though we didn't try Fairlife in a smoothie, we can't imagine we would notice a difference.
With the extra protein and calcium, the better comparison might be Fairlife to regular yogurt or Greek yogurt. The yogurt, especially the Greek version, offers significant bacterial advantages over milk, even Fairlife. A cup of Fairlife would be a lot easier to consume to get 13 g of protein versus a cup of regular or Greek yogurt.
Fairlife offers 6 g of sugar in a serving vs. 12 g of sugar in milk. The company says the filtering process reduces the sugars. Since Fairlife has no lactose, and lactose is milk sugar, why are there 6 g of sugar?
Lactase enzyme has been added. This would account for the 6 g of sugar while not having lactose. Those who are lactose intolerant could handle this product because lactase is not lactose (one letter difference).
The 2% chocolate version goes from 24 g of sugar to 12 g of sugar. Fairlife makes up for the "lack of sweetness" by adding artificial sweeteners sucralose and acesulfame potassium.
Though I detected an aftertaste in the regular version, that is not the same aftertaste that you get from the artificial sweeteners.
If you are buying regular mainstream milk, the cost factor for Fairlife, regular yogurt, Greek yogurt, and organic milk may limit your purchase of any of these products. Soy milk and almond milk — different beasts entirely — also would be cost prohibitive. You'll have to drink more milk to make up the difference.
A gallon of regular mainstream milk = 128 oz. = 16 cups of milk = 128 g of protein. Cost approx. $3.10. A 52 oz. container of Fairlife cost me $4.29: 52 oz. of Fairlife milk = 6½ cups of milk = 84½ g of protein. Yes, Fairlife has more protein per serving but not more protein per container.
You can get more calcium by drinking more regular milk as well.
So who is the audience for Fairlife?
Those that can afford an upgraded milk, those who appreciate a decent tasting lactose-free milk, and those who only drink milk every so often. Fairlife's saving grace is that it's very shelf-stable. Whatever you might think about what longer shelf life means for a food product, American consumers eat that up, literally.
The Fairlife vs. organic milk battle came at a good time. I've been using almond milk as an occasional source of "milk" but bemoaning the loss of protein. Am also not thrilled with the amount of water needed to get us the almond milk, especially with droughts in California.
Soy milk offers the protein of regular milk but you have to ensure you are getting GMO-free soy milk. A shelf-stable version of milk with more protein that is actually milk is tempting as a supplement to other variations of milk.
The ultimate answer to which form and variety of milk that you choose comes down to how you use milk. Fairlife will never replace mainstream milk in a lot of households because regular milk is cheaper and often used as a loss leader at convenience and grocery stores.
Fairlife won't replace almond milk and soy milk for those who don't want to consume an animal product. Fairlife won't taste as good as organic milk nor offer the advantages of organic milk.
But Fairlife isn't the creepy evil Frankenstein image some are portraying. Fairlife is for occasional use where a burst of real milk satisfies a need over a long period of time.
video credit: Colbert Report/Comedy Central
picture credit: Fairlife