story so far
Barley is a fiber-rich, beta-glucan packed, low fat, nutri-bomb of a grain
World Plant Milk Day has much to celebrate this year, with more than 25 percent of Brits now regularly buying alternative milks, and sales across the category predicted to double by2025.
It continues to grow in response to an increasingly wide and adventurous consumer base – well beyond the original vegan community - who have ever higher expectations of their plant-based products.
The result is exciting and prolific innovation and a marketplace that is growing to bewildering proportions, from the staple oats, soy, almonds, rice and coconut, to a wealth of other nuts, grains, legumes, even tubers. Ever more delicious, nutritious, sustainable reasons to make that switch, then!
The newest kid on the plant milk block is a UK first: a range of vegan shakes from Bright Barley, made from the super grain, barley. Ironically, this fresher draws on 30,000 years of history, as barley was first cultivated in the Iron Age.
A fiber-rich, beta-glucan packed, low fat, nutri-bomb of a grain, it has fuelled physical excellence across millennia, including the Egyptians, the Greeks and theRomans. Roman gladiators were, in fact, called hordearii, or ‘barley-eaters’.
It wasn’t just nutrition and flavour that took the humble barley grain around the world, but its ability to thrive in the most marginal of conditions. A resilience, particularly in drought, that scientists at Heriot-Watt University are now researching as a potential key to future-proofing a cereal industry faced with climate change.
It was in one of the planet’s most inhospitable of regions, in fact - the Tibetan Plains – that the founder of Bright Barley, Jiali Jiang - who grew up close by - first spotted barley’s potential.
“For Tibetans”, she explains, “barley is a staple, particularly 'tsampa', which is a type of bread made from roasted barley, but it’s also used variously in cakes, porridges, soups and the alcoholic drink ‘chhaang'.
"So, when I came to the U.K., I was amazed to discover that this ancient, delicious little grain was now largely relegated to animal fodder. Bright Barley is all about changing that."
Incredibly, despite being the fourth largest crop grown globally and still a staple in China andIndia too, only two percent finds its way into human consumption; and the West has largely forgotten about it, beyond brewing.
Until now. After four intensive years of product development, Jiali and her team have perfected a range of ready-to-drink vegan barley shakes in Salted Caramel, Chocolate and Coffee flavours, with a 1-liter, original barley mylk to follow.
Their painstaking perfectionism was as much about flavour and quality as about remaining true to their environmental commitments.
"Provenance and sustainability is important to both me and to our consumer. In fact, discovering that high quality barley was grown in the U.K. was central to my decision todevelop a barley drink.” Jiali explains.
She has been meticulous insourcing local ingredients wherever possible, and in prioritising a supply chain of British independents. “So many plant-based milks have had hidden environmental impacts on land and water usage or in food miles. Ours was going to be different in every way.”
So it would seem.
Bright Barley drinks are available from Eat 17 and selected independent health stores, cafés anddelis, and online through BrightBarley, Yumbles, TheFood Market, Amazon and,from mid-September, from Holland & Barrett with further stockists to be announced. (RRP: from £1.69 per 330ml ready to drink carton, plus P&P).