Fairlife is a controversial alternative to regular milk. Distributed by Coca-Cola, the milk product is higher in protein and calcium. It’s also lactose-free and contains less sugar.
The advantages are easy to see. Yet, there are concerns as well. This Fairlife review aims to get to the bottom of those controversies – to highlight the strengths and weaknesses of this milk alternative.
Fairlife Milk Products
The Fairlife range now has a significant selection of products, including various fat percentages. The list below highlights the current selection.
- Fairlife Chocolate (2%)
- Fairlife 2%
- Fairlife 1%
- Fairlife Skim
- Fairlife Whole
- Fairlife 2% with DHA
- Fairlife Whole with DHA
- Fairlife Chocolate (whole) with DHA
There are also some related product ranges:
- Fairlife Yup! These are 14 fl. oz containers of 1% low fat flavored milk (chocolate, strawberry and vanilla). There is also one non-flavored version.
- Smart Snacks. These include Fairlife milk, along with honey, oats and flavorings. There are three options to choose from: chocolate, vanilla and strawberry. Each contains 15 g protein, 11 g sugar and 5 g fiber.
- Core Power. These are also small drinks, this time containing 11.5 fl. oz of liquid. They’re marketed as high protein milkshakes. The flavors are chocolate, vanilla, banana, strawberry banana and coffee. They contain 26 g of protein, 26 g of sugar and 2 g of fiber.
While the milk has appealing factors, the related brands are more concerning. I’m sure they taste wonderful, they should with how much sugar has been added. But, from a health perspective, that sugar is seriously concerning.
For a comparison, the ready to drink shakes from Premier Protein contain 30 g protein and 1 g sugar. The ones from Soylent contain 20 g protein and 8 g sugar. Even Soylent is better than the shocking 26 g of sugar that the Core Power drinks contain.
Fairlife Milk Nutritional Profile
Thankfully, the milk from Fairlife doesn’t have the same problems with sugar. Instead, it is has less sugar than regular milk. The table below shows a comparison between Fairlife 2%, 2% milk and almond milk.
Swipe left to view more columns
1 cup (240 ml)
|1 cup (244 ml)||
1 cup (240 ml)
|4.5 g||4.8 g||2.5 g|
|6 g||12.3 g||1 g|
|6 g||12.3 g||0 g|
|0 g||0 g||1 g|
|13 g||8.1 g||1 g|
|40% DV||29% DV||45% DV (added in)|
As the marketing claims, Fairlife does contain less sugar, more protein and more calcium. Other elements remain roughly the same. This makes the nutritional advantage of Fairlife clear.
The lactose-free aspect is another advantage. This makes Fairlife milk perfect for anyone who is lactose intolerant.
However, as many people have pointed out, the sugar in milk is from lactose, none of it is added. Lactose may also have health benefits, so the Fairlife version isn’t necessarily better.
What Does It Taste Like?
Reactions to Fairlife milk are interesting.
Personally, I love the milk. It tastes like a creamier version of regular milk and has an appealing texture. The protein content is also desirable, as it complements my resistance exercise program.
Other opinions vary.
- Protein Kitchen talks about how the milk lacks the sweetness and creaminess that you find with regular 2% milk. The article also mentions that the chocolate milk tastes sweet and chocolaty, which is appealing.
- Erica from Whimsical September mentioned that her family preferred the whole milk from Fairlife over regular versions. The biggest difference was that Fairlife was significantly creamier.
- A blind taste test by Buzz Feed found that most participants preferred regular skim milk over Fairlife skim. The same was true for full fat and for chocolate milk. But, Fairlife 2% was more popular than regular 2% milk. The Fairlife version was considered thicker and creamier.
- The Impulsive Buy highlights an aftertaste in the chocolate milk (due to the use of sweeteners), but states that it mostly just tastes like chocolate milk.
- Comments on the post by The Impulsive Buy highlight a similar pattern. Some people say that the chocolate version is absolutely horrible, while other people love it.
The decreased sweetness for regular milk is hardly surprising, as the milk contains less sugar. Whether you notice the taste difference depends on how you use the milk. Drink a glass of the milk and you’ll be able to tell. That’s not the case if you use it in a smoothie.
The taste will also vary depending on which product you’re using – and on your personal preferences. As the reviews show, some people love the milk, others don’t.
Controversies and Areas of Concern
Fairlife does have many advantages. It’s also incredibly controversial.
Others are skeptical of the product itself. It has more protein, more calcium and less sugar than regular milk. Getting that outcome without heavy processing seems unlikely.
And finally, Fairlife is distributed by Coca-Cola. That’s reason enough to be concerned. Coca-Cola isn’t known for healthy products.
So, what’s fact and what’s fiction?
Fairlife is expensive. It costs significantly more than regular milk and comes in a fairly small container. Ounce for ounce, you’re playing almost twice as much for Fairlife milk.
That’s rough, especially for families who drink a lot of milk.
Then again, Fairlife is marketed as a premium product. You probably wouldn’t choose to replace all of your milk with Fairlife.
Where Fairlife Milk Comes From
Coca-Cola might distribute the milk, but they didn’t develop it. Fairlife milk was created by Mike and Sue McCloskey. They own Fair Oaks Farms, which has become famous in its own right. The farm is well-known for transparency and allows people to see all the steps in food production, including the way that the animals are treated.
The owners approached Coca-Cola about distribution, as the product wasn’t reaching a wide enough audience.
And, why not? Coca-Cola is a powerful company. It has much more reach and branding power than any single farm.
How it is Created
In some ways, Fairlife can be considered a milk byproduct. It is created through a process of ultra-filtering milk. This is similar to how water is filtered to remove impurities. In the case of Fairlife, the milk is filtered and components are then recombined in different proportions.
This allows the milk to be higher in protein and calcium, while having less sugar.
It also means that the nutrients do come from milk itself.
Competition with Regular Milk
Some observers worry that Fairlife milk might compete with conventional milk. That would be bad news for farmers.
However, milk already faces considerable competition. Many people are turning to plant-based alternatives or simply decreasing how much milk they use.
Fairlife may even help milk consumption in the long-term, as it provides one more option for customers to choose from. This is very relevant for anyone wanting to increase protein intake and for people who are sensitive to lactose.
The higher price also stops it from being too competitive.
Is It Milk?
Honestly, this depends on your definition. The product is created from milk and doesn’t have an extensive ingredients list. But, the nutritional profile is significantly different, while the creation process involves extra steps.
The ingredients label for Fairlife milk itself is pretty simple. The only unusual component is the lactase. This is an enzyme that breaks down lactose. It helps ensure the milk is lactose-free. The addition of vitamin D3 and vitamin A is a form of fortification. It is common in regular milk too.
Some of the other products are less innocent. For example, the label below is for the 2% Chocolate version.
This includes natural and artificial flavors, as well as sucralose (an artificial sweetener). It has added sugar as well. The cocoa is alkalized, so you won’t see many health benefits from the cocoa flavanols.
As a result, the regular milk is fine nutritionally, while the flavored products are more concerning. Make sure you carefully read the ingredients label if you plan to try any for yourself.
Fairlife Milk – The Good vs The Bad
Even with the Coca-Cola association and extra ingredients, Fairlife milk has many advantages. Still, it won’t be for everyone.
- Better nutritional profile than regular milk
- Contains less sugar
- Is lactose-free
- Doesn’t contain added ingredients (for the milk only, not related products)
- A valuable source of protein
- Strong focus on transparency, along with claims that the cows are well-treated
- Has a longer shelf life than conventional milk (roughly 90 days when unopened)
- Doesn’t used growth hormones
- Significantly more expensive
- Flavored versions contain artificial ingredients and extra sugar
- The flavor and texture are slightly different than conventional milk
- The milk isn’t organic
- It can be considered more processed
I’m pleased with Fairlife myself, but it’s still not a product I always use. I find that it’s good for some situations, particularly after a workout and as a smoothie base. For other uses, regular milk tends to be just fine – and is much less expensive. Of course, if price isn’t an issue, you could easily choose the nutritionally superior Fairlife for daily use.
Fairlife is mostly targeted at people who want the better nutritional profile and those who are lactose intolerant. If you’re not in either of those camps – you’ll probably find the cheaper regular milk just fine.
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