What is nondairy creamer?

Liquid nondairy creamers are formulated to add body, flavor, and color to coffee. We wondered how all the ingredients manage to mimic real cream, so we asked Dennis R. Heldman, PhD, a professor emeritus at the University of Missouri and the principal of Heldman Associates, a consulting company that specializes in food processes.

He looked at the common ingredients of two popular nondairy liquid creamers from the Coffee-mate and International Delight brands, and explained what role he believes they play.

The Ingredients

Partially Hydrogenated Soybean/Cottonseed Oil; Palm Oil: Heldman says that these oils are used in place of milk fat. They deliver the creamy texture and some of the rich, fatty flavor of cream.

Sugar; Corn Syrup; Sodium Stearyl Lactylate∗: “Any sweetness that you pick up in dairy products is from the lactose,” explains Heldman; these ingredients are used to mimic this naturally occurring flavor.

Sodium Caseinate: This is a milk protein, to give “flavor and texture,” says Heldman.

Mono- and Diglycerides: Additional fats to help give the product texture.

Dipotassium Phosphate: “I’m making an assumption that this is an ingredient used in lieu of a natural salt that would be in cream,” says Heldman. “I don’t believe there is any preservative aspect.”

Carrageenan∗: Often referred to on ingredients lists as a “stabilizer,” Heldman explains that this is an emulsifier that prevents the creamer from separating.

Natural and Artificial Flavors: Heldman says these final ingredients “fine-tune the flavor profile to make it palatable.”

These ingredients only found in International Delight.

CHOW’s Nagging Question column appears every Friday.

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