I Paid: $2.67 for 1 quart (prices may vary by region)
Sunflower seeds seem like an unlikely cornerstone upon which to establish a food culture, but they have the capacity to make a big impact. In the Midwest, sunflower oil is being touted as a locavore alternative to olive oil—lacking much of the character and flavor, surely, but picking up points for a high smoke point and its vitamin E content.
Now comes sunflower milk, a dairy- and gluten-free beverage concocted from water, organic evaporated cane juice, sunflower kernels, and a mix of natural products (guar gum, etc.) designed to give it a smoother, richer texture. An 8-ounce serving of SoL Sunflower Beverage's Original flavor is 70 calories (compared to 122 calories for 2 percent milk) and carries half of your day's vitamin E requirement and 20 percent of your folic acid requirement. Flavor-wise, it's pleasant and mild: It has the cool, refreshing impact of milk from the fridge, with a low-key, nutty twist at the end. And the mouthfeel is good: thick enough to taste rich, but not gummy or aggressively heavy.
SoL in tea: It's hard to mess with the classic British flavor of tea with milk and sugar, and, indeed, SoL isn't a 1-to-1 stand-in for milk. Not surprisingly, it imparts a nutty rather than dairy kick and a bit of sweetness. The effect, however, isn't unpleasant at all—the tea was certainly lighter and more enjoyable for its presence.
SoL over cereal: The toastiness of SoL nicely complements granola-/raisin bran–type cereals while perhaps working at cross purposes with certain sweeter cereals (Fruity Pebbles, Froot Loops).
Like many healthful substitute products, SoL can only hope to take a tiny chunk of business from the substance that it apes, but unlike many of its peers, it brings a pleasant flavor to the table all its own.