Here's what happened when I started asking the almond industry about the ingredients in almond milk

A simple question sent me on one of the more bizarre journeys I have ever taken.

I knew that a standard serving of almond milk contains a fraction of the nutritional value found in a serving of almonds. So I wanted to find out just how many almonds are actually in a carton of almond milk.

Two major almond companies, Blue Diamond and Califia, declined to reveal the exact amount of almonds in their milk (despite repeated assurance that I was not writing about the California drought, which has been a hot topic for almond companies recently).

A series of phone calls and emails between Blue Diamond and a PR firm representing Califia ended when both referred me to a trade group called the Almond Board of California.

I then spoke with Almond Board of California spokesperson Carissa Sauer, who couldn’t (wouldn’t?!) tell me how many almonds are used to make commercial almond milk.

“I will talk to the group,” she said, assuring she would call me back.

She never called.

I did, about 20 minutes later, get an email from the Almond Board about a late afternoon press conference scheduled “to add sorely-needed facts and context to the recent discussion around California’s drought.”

A press conference about almonds. An almond conference.

This is nuts.

Richard Waycott, who heads up the Almond Board, spoke at length about various things related to the drought and how almonds have or have not affected the state’s water supply. But he did not mention almond milk.

I asked point blank: “How many almonds are in the average half gallon container of almond milk?”

Waycott gave a rambling answer about different producers and varying formulas before referring me back to the almond companies.

I pressed him further: “But those companies referred me to you, they said the formulas are fairly standardised across the board.”

Waycott said: “That’s interesting because we really don’t have that knowledge.”

No one knew exactly what is in a carton of almond milk.

Sauer eventually emailed me back hours later to suggest I check product labels in the UK. She said nutrition labels there tend to be more detailed and “the ingredient combinations are pretty similar.”

One brand of British almond milk, I finally found out, contains just 2% almonds per carton. A handful. Perhaps even only a single almond per glass. The remainder is water, vitamins, and thickening agents.

Almond milk is a rip-off.

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