A simple question sent me on a bizarre journey.
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.
A series of phone calls and emails between Blue Diamond and a PR firm representing Califia ended when Blue Diamond referred me to a trade group called the Almond Board of California and Califia declined to answer my question due to the proprietary nature of their almond milk formula.
I then spoke with Almond Board of California spokeswoman Carissa Sauer, who couldn't (or 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 back.
About 20 minutes later, I got 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."
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: "But [Blue Diamond] referred me to you ... [because] the formulas are fairly standardized 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 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. The remainder is water, vitamins, and thickening agents.
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