Gary Steel tries a proudly Australian organic soymilk and gags on gloop.
Go back more than 10 years, and NZ used to get organic Vitasoy directly from Hong Kong, in both 1-litre containers and convenient snack-sized portions. And it tasted great – the thickest, creamiest soymilk I’ve ever experienced.
Then the Aussies got their hands on the brand, and we couldn’t get the original Hong Kong version anymore. The snack-sized containers disappeared from NZ supermarket shelves, and for some reason that I still find bizarre, the Australians decided that the 1-litre boxes had to be thinner and taller. This made the milk more difficult to pour, and led to much cussing and swearing from this loyal customer, because it was all too easy to fail in one’s quest to open a box without making a mess. Sometimes, the opening tab failed altogether, and I had to resort to a savage attack from knife or scissors.
“The ‘milk’, possibly because it was so comparatively watery, had a slightly glue-type smell/taste, on some occasions more apparent than others.”
But the worst thing about the Aussie version of Vitasoy was that despite advertising the product as being the same as the original Hong Kong product, the formula was clearly different: it didn’t taste as good, and it was less thick, and less creamy. The ‘milk’, possibly because it was so comparatively watery, had a slightly glue-type smell/taste, on some occasions more apparent than others.
Even more disappointing is the fact that the Aussie license-holders have never responded to consumer requests to alter the formula. My complaints certainly went unanswered, except for a terse email saying that because they were Aussie beans grown in Aussie conditions, they would automatically taste different. Right then.
“I’m not at all worried about the propaganda that it might make my man-boobs swell.”
So then, I was pretty excited when I spotted a new product in the supermarket: Australia’s Own Premium (Organic) Soy.
While I despise this tendency that Australians have to get all excited about having its own products, and then marketing them to their poorer cousins (us Kiwis) as though we give a rat’s ass that they’re “Australia’s own”, I thought that because of its organic status, and its reasonably affordable price, it was worth a punt.
I was wrong. Australia’s Own Premium Soy tastes okay, although like the Australian-licensed Vitasoy, the flavour lacks the creaminess and delicious rounded taste of the Hong Kong Vitasoy.
It’s a bit thin and watery, and soon enough I was to find out why: the ‘body’ of the soy all drifts to the bottom of the package, making what I can only describe as a gelatinous gloop on the bottom.
I had to throw away the last centimetres of that first package, because it simply wouldn’t pour; it was that solid. So I re-read the package, which said to make sure to shake it to avoid sedimentation. So I bought a few more packets, and followed the instructions. Glug on the bottom, regardless of shaking. I don’t know quite how to explain the thick slime at the bottom, but it’s pretty disgusting.
In my naivety, I thought that perhaps it was just a problem with a particular batch, so I emailed the makers of Australia’s Own Soy, Freedom Foods. Notwithstanding the dubious grammar, to their credit, they replied straight away; not to their credit was the answer:
Thank you for contacting Freedom Foods with your feedback regarding Australia’s Own Premium Soy.
We appreciate you taking the time to notify us about the issue you had with our product it is always a good idea to contact the company directly. We take all feedback seriously and all comments are passed onto the manufacturing teams.
Sedimentation can happen because we use whole soy beans which are milled to a flour and then water is added. Some batches may vary from time to time. However the product is still fine to consume.
Should you have any further question we now have a great new website for you, www.freedomfoods.com.au. It has up to date product information such as where to buy our products, nutritional information and you can also search through our frequently asked questions.
I don’t know about you, dear reader, but I find that reply lacking in just about every way. It acknowledges that sedimentation may occur, and explains why it might happen, but doesn’t acknowledge that it’s any kind of ongoing problem, or offer any suggestions. It says that the product is still fine to consume, although from my perspective, having a couple of inches of gloopy slime at the bottom of each product means that it doesn’t go anywhere near to being up to scratch. In fact, you would have to be a fool to try and consume the gloopy slime (and you’d have to cut the package open to access it, anyway) which means that you’re not even getting the quantity of actual soymilk you’re paying for.
“I don’t know quite how to explain the thick slime at the bottom, but it’s pretty disgusting.”
I’m tired of rote responses from companies to serious questions. I don’t know if every packet of Australia’s Own Premium Soy has this problem, but I purchased quite a few over the period of a month, and they were all, in my opinion, defective.
And just to make sure I wasn’t nuts, I checked Freedom Food’s own website to find user feedback like this:
“I was relieved to find a sugar free soy. But once I’ve opened it and then put it in the fridge it turns into a thick gluggy slop and is horrible. I wonder if this problem can be fixed. I’m fed up with the waste.”
Vegetarian, vegan and other consumers who use soy products because they won’t use dairy are stuck between a rock, and a very hard place, because the choice down here is so limited. If NZ and Aussie companies are serious about servicing customers who potentially use their brand, ongoing, over a very long time, then they should up their act, improve their products, and get real with their customers. GARY STEEL
PS, Any of our readers want to share their soymilk experiences? And anyone here distributing a superior soymilk? Let me know!