Milo (updated)

Milk is available in Singapore, but it’s expensive.  Like everything, it’s imported.  You get whole milk (“fresh milk”) and they have something called Hi-lo (which is supposed to be lowfat milk) but you can’t get 2%, 1%, buttermik, heavy cream, etc.  Restaurants (with the exception of McDonald’s) do not give milk with kids meals…instead, all toddlers/little kids drink Milo.

According to the Milo Singapore page…

In 2006, MILO® commemorates its 22nd year of production in Singapore – a fact unknown to many.  MILO® is and has been produced in Singapore since 1984.  Singaporeans’ favourite energy drink is a staple of many Singaporeans’ diet and is popular across generations.  Many fondly remember waking up to a hot cup of MILO® prepared with love and affection by their mothers in their childhood or the ever popular MILO® van, at sporting events.

It’s a chocolate drink.  I think it’s prepared with either hot or cold water, and at restaurants it’s served over ice in the kids meals.

The first time I ran into Milo was at the KFC at the zoo (the only restaurant in the Kidzworld area).  I had asked for milk and I thought they’d given me chocolate milk.  After several minutes of cultural confusion, I was finally made to understand that while it’s a “milk drink” (it has powdered milk in it) it’s not milk and they don’t serve milk at all.  I was completely thrown, but wrote it off as a random occurrence.

As we’ve eaten at a wider variety of food places, with the noted exception of McDonald’s I have run into Milo again and again.  You can substitute soda for Milo, but when I’ve asked for water instead, I’ve been given the kind of look I’d only expect to see if I had asked if I could have some weapons-grade plutonium with my kids meal.

I asked my helper, B, about it as she’s been helping raise kids in Singapore for the past 3 years.  She told me that milk is very expensive (a 2L bottle is the cost of a gallon of milk at home) and people don’t have that kind of money to give kids milk.  So either they’re breastfed or have formula and then start drinking Milo fairly young.  Milk is seen as something only for older kids (because they won’t spill it?  because they don’t drink as much liquid in a day as little kids?  not sure…) and that it’s too much for little ones. (Please see correction below from a local mom)

The idea of giving my 18 month old a chocolate drink seems pretty unnecessary and the start down the path to sugary drink addiction, so I haven’t given it to her yet.  I realize that my resistance is pretty American of me…but I didn’t realize how American until I saw the comments on a recent Motherlode (NYTimes parenting blog) post entitled “Two products I just don’t understand”-one was a chocolate toddler formula not unlike Milo (the other was denim colored diapers).

The almost universal reaction was horror.  There was some discussion about the notion of toddler formula in general (and I’m not trying to start that war here) but the idea of giving toddlers chocolate flavored anything was anathema.

Am I product of my culture or am I right to be wary of Milo and it’s strangely compelling grip on the country (grocery stores have H-U-G-E displays of Milo)?  Or am I just refusing to take part in a culture I have chosen to move to? (Then again, it’s not like either Ravi or I are willing to try pig snout soup either).

Well, when it comes to Milo, I think I get a free pass…because Elanor doesn’t like chocolate.  She doesn’t like M&M’s, she did not like the chocolate on some ice cream I offered her, and she rarely likes products with chocolate in them (chocolate chip cookies and ice cream sandwiches are her exceptions).  I have a hard time seeing her like this stuff…which is my excuse and I’m sticking with it.

*********Updated to Add*****************

I just got the following comment from a local Singaporean mom and I wanted to add part of her comment into the post as a correction.

I’m a mother myself, and my kid drinks Milk on a regular basis. I don’t really like to let her drink Milo often, but it is something which is more of a treat for her. She is five now, and drinks both powdered milk and fresh milk.

I’ve encountered the same No Milk problem at KFC, Burger King, most restaurants in fact, except for Mac’s, you’re right. But I would think tht the main reason for mums giving their younger kids Milo in these places is that it comes in a set kiddy meal, the only other choice is a carbonated soft drink, its accepted in our culture as a healthy/energy drink, so they just shrug and accept it.

Honestly, I doubt many Singaporean households actually find milk expensive…. a 1L pack of HL Milk (you called it HiLo) is only about 2 plus dollars, and UHT Milks are only $1.90 per 1L packet. I don’t even have any idea how much milk costs in the states, so how do we compare? Is it really that expensive?

For mums, especially those of my generation, we would be aware of the importance of calcium for our kids, and cost wouldnt be that great of a factor in this case.

I would think rather, that the businesses in question find Milo more profitable than Milk. (It being a powdered drink that can be bought directly from the factory in Singapore).

When I bring my girl out for meals, I bring a bottle of water, or a packet of UHT Milk.

A point of clarity–UHT Milk is Ultra High Temperature Processed milk that does not need to be refrigerated until opened.  It has a shelf life of 6 months.  It totally freaks me out.

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17 Responses to Milo (updated)

  1. Zach Woods says:

    Hi Crystal –

    I say being sensitive to and respecting a cultures differences is different from acquiescing to those differences that do not fit your beliefs or, even worse, there is good scientific evidence are not the healthiest option.

    For example, if I came from a culture that practiced vegetarianism for religious reasons (ie Tibetan Budhism) but was living in the US, there would be a big difference between 1) my eating meat because of the “when in Rome, do as the Romans do” thinking, 2) my choosing not to eat meat but not making a big deal about it and only talking about my choice when a US citizen expressed an honest and open interest in the reasons that I did not eat meat, and 3) always making a big scene about how bad it was to eat meat no matter who I was making a scene in front of and no matter the circumstances.

    I would suggest carrying real milk with you when possible, and if someone asks why you don’t want Milo, explaining that in your culture toddlers always drink real milk. And if that someone seems interested in learning more about your culture, tell them that scientific evidence shows that real milk is nutritionally important for toddlers and chocolate is known to be habit forming if not actually addictive and that sugar is definitely a negative that it would be good for all humans to avoid if they can.

    Zach

    P.S. It might be interesting to compare the nutritional value of Milo to Milk. My snap reaction is that it is not as good as milk but maybe we should test that gut reaction before passing final judgement.

  2. Saffy says:

    I’ve had that style milo – not in Singapore, but in Thailand. It isn’t like milk. It’s sweet. Ick. OK for 20 somethings being piglets, but little growing people? Sounds like you’re going to have to find a way to get real milk into E. Tres frustrating. As for chocolate flavored formula? OMG wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

    Oh and I LOVE Milo. As a treat. It sends my blood sugars thru the roof (I have to take a mighty dose of insulin to cope with it) but would I give it to D? Nope.

    My rant ends 🙂

  3. cubicalgirl says:

    I think as a mom, it’s totally your call on what to feed your kid. Zach has good ifea about explaining to people if they ask, but really, it’s no one’s place to say anything. It’s just too bad that real milk is so expensive.

    When I was a kid I wasn’t allowed Kool Aid, Hugs (the little barrel-shaped plastic containers with a sugary drink in them), or sugary cereal (like Trix, Cookie Crisp, etc.). To this day I don’t have a taste for that stuff (or much of a sweet tooth at all) and Marvin still teases me when we go to the supermarket and I’m picking whole grain Cheerios over Fruity Pebbles. I always say, “I’m not allowed to have that! My mom said!” to which Marvin points out that I’m 33 years old and paying for my own groceries.

    Which is just to say, right on. E has her whole life to eat sugar and other crap. Drinking milk instead of Milo won’t hurt her.

  4. Nancy says:

    Can you find Parmalat-style milk boxes?

    What you’re describing sounds like “YooHoo” chocolate “drink”. The YooHoo ingredients, bizarrely and inexplicably, are nowhere to be found on their website. (http://www.drinkyoo-hoo.com/products/default.aspx). Found them elsewhere on the web though:

    YooHoo:
    Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Whey (from Milk), Sugar, Corn Syrup Solids, Cocoa (Alkali Process), Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, Sodium Caseinate (from Milk), Nonfat Dry Milk, Salt, Tricalcium Phosphate, Dipotassium Phosphate, Xanthan Gum, Guar Gum, Natural and Artificial Flavors, Soy Lecithin, Mono and Diglycerides, Vitamin A Palmitate, Niacinamide (Vitamin B3), Vitamin D3, Riboflavin (Vitamin B2).

    Milo:
    Extract of malted barley, milk solid, sugar, cocoa vegetable oil [containing one or more of the following: palm oil, palm olein, coconut oil, palm kernel oil, whey, corn oil, soya oil] whey ACTIGEN-E [dicalcium phosphate, magnesium carbonate ascorbic acid, vitamin pp, ferric pyrophosphate, calcium-d-pantothenate, vitamin B6, vitamin B2, vitamin B1, D-biotin, vitamin B12, disodium phosphate, vanillin, maltodextrin.

    Agree 100% that neither are suitable for regular consumption by a toddler or preschooler! I’m a fan of water!

  5. Daphne says:

    Hi Crystal,

    I can’t help but feel the need to reply for this.

    Quote “I asked my helper, B, about it as she’s been helping raise kids in Singapore for the past 3 years. She told me that milk is very expensive (a 2L bottle is the cost of a gallon of milk at home) and people don’t have that kind of money to give kids milk. So either they’re breastfed or have formula and then start drinking Milo fairly young. Milk is seen as something only for older kids ” Unquote.

    I’m a mother myself, and my kid drinks Milk on a regular basis. I don’t really like to let her drink Milo often, but it is something which is more of a treat for her. She is five now, and drinks both powdered milk and fresh milk.

    I’ve encountered the same No Milk problem at KFC, Burger King, most restaurants in fact, except for Mac’s, you’re right. But I would think tht the main reason for mums giving their younger kids Milo in these places is that it comes in a set kiddy meal, the only other choice is a carbonated soft drink, its accepted in our culture as a healthy/energy drink, so they just shrug and accept it.

    Honestly, I doubt many Singaporean households actually find milk expensive…. a 1L pack of HL Milk (you called it HiLo) is only about 2 plus dollars, and UHT Milks are only $1.90 per 1L packet. I don’t even have any idea how much milk costs in the states, so how do we compare? Is it really that expensive?

    For mums, especially those of my generation, we would be aware of the importance of calcium for our kids, and cost wouldnt be that great of a factor in this case.

    I would think rather, that the businesses in question find Milo more profitable than Milk. (It being a powdered drink that can be bought directly from the factory in Singapore).

    When I bring my girl out for meals, I bring a bottle of water, or a packet of UHT Milk.

    If you’re not comfortable giving your kid Milo, then don’t.

    Cheers!

    • Crystal says:

      Thank you for your comments!

      As we’re still new and I haven’t been able to make a lot of friends yet, my helper is the closest thing I have to an expert on Singapore. Her last family was local so her experiences are the closest thing I have to an inside picture.

      So in the US, you can buy a quart or a gallon of milk. A gallon is 3.8 L…and usually costs about $5 SD, which is what I pay for the 2L Meijii Fresh Milk for Elanor. So it comes out to about twice as expensive.

      I think you’re right that UHT milk is possibly a little cheaper, but both of us are kind of freaked out by milk that can sit on the shelf. They do have it in the US, but there’s maybe 4 boxes of UHT cows milk next to 1-2 shelves of rice or soy milk and only in the big chain grocery stores. When we think of milk, we just think of the cold, keep refrigerated type. But then, dairy farms are common and there’s no need to do a UHT process when it can just be pasteurized and sent to the local store. In fact, even though I lived just outside Boston, there was a dairy farm close enough that I could have had milk delivered from the farm directly without pasteurizing! But, to some extent, cold, refrigerated milk (as opposed to UHT) is what we were given as kids and what our parents were given so it’s what we’ve internalized as what we should give our daughter.

      Glad to hear my helper got it wrong! I was definitely a bit skeptical but wasn’t seeing tons of evidence to the contrary.

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  7. is UHT different from the Horizon Organic milk boxes (http://www.amazon.com/Horizon-Organic-Reduced-8-Ounce-Aseptic/dp/B000LKVB52)? it sounds like the same concept and i use them here all the time.

    • Crystal says:

      Nope…and if you look at the picture of the Horizon milk, it says it UHT milk.

      I do think it’s incredibly bizzare though, don’t you? That milk can stay fresh for 6 months? I’m VERY distrustful of any process that could produce milk that’s “shelf stable” for 6 months. And I don’t think that it would be fair to say that it’s common (at all) for Americans to purchase UHT milk. Wouldn’t you agree the majority get cold, normal milk?

      • i guess it’s kind of bizarre…i don’t know. i never thought about it too much.

        i certainly think the majority of americans use fresh cold milk. but i also think it’s very common for moms to use these horizon boxes in addition. lots of my friends toss them in their diaper bags to have milk on the go. also, several restaurants/stores use them as well. (like, BJ’s has it in their cafe — chilled, but it’s still the same stuff and Panera also sells it.) i think it’s becoming more popular since horizon came out with it. moms will tend to trust the brand, i think, more than parmalat, which was the only boxed milk before.

      • Crystal says:

        Y’know, it’s kind of funny because of course I’d seen them before, but at least near me, everyone from Whole Foods to Shaws keeps them in the refrigerated case! I didn’t know that they were safe to keep outside the fridge because I’d always shunned organic milk as a sham riding on the coattails of the organic trend. Cold milk is so easy to get in the US that if I was out and about and E wanted milk, I’d just go to a CVS or a fast-food restaurant or even Starbucks and just buy some.

  8. Aimee says:

    I have used a lot of UHT milk. Josh used to keep Parmalat in his house when I first met him because he used so little milk. Lots of schoolkids drink Lil’Milk, which is Parmalat, or Horizons in my experience.

    Also, for the record, I give CJ organic whole milk at home (when we’re out in the world I’m less picky). I read in Raising Baby Green, by Alan Green, MD, that if you have to choose only a few things to use organic, milk is #1.

    There’s a list of reasons why here: http://www.organicconsumers.org/organic/seven052505.cfm

    Meat, dairy, berries and apples are some of the most chemically-treated foods out there. I’m a lot less worried about UHT milk than I am about conventional agriculture in the US.

    • Crystal says:

      Horizon milk isn’t actually organic, though… http://www.greenoptions.com/forum/thread/911/horizon-milk-is-not-organic-dean-foods-is-nothing-short-of-corrupt or http://www.wisebread.com/horizon-organic-milk-is-it-all-just-lies

      When I was debating the whole organic vs non-organic question, most of what I recall reading said that root veggies were actually the most important to go organic on as they absorb potentially harmful chemicals from the soil for their entire growth cycle as opposed to something like an apple which might be sprayed a few times with or near pesticides.

      Most schoolkids I knew in Boston, Cambridge and Newton either drank the school milk (which wasn’t UHT) or juiceboxes.

      Personally I’m just not stressed about conventional agriculture in the US. I don’t think it’s all that different from 20 years ago when we were eating it…I just think it’s a trendy thing to be stressed about.

      • Robin says:

        i don’t feel terribly stressed about organic at all. i do give the who organic milk at home (usually trader joe’s) but i’ll buy him any milk when we’re out. i buy organic bananas because they taste better to me…either that or there is a smaller stock of them and so they are replenished more frequently and so they don’t overripen. i don’t know. i also buy organic carrots because they last forEVER in the fridge and i don’t go through them that fast. i try to buy organic meat (often, local from the farmer’s market, otherwise, trader joe’s) but my chicken is plain old purdue. other than that, if something is organic, it’s just a bonus, not a requirement. it just so happens that i do a lot of shopping at TJ’s and a lot of their stuff is organic by default.

      • Crystal says:

        In the end, like with most things…you do what’s right for you and your family.

        I don’t have a problem with anyone choosing UHT or organic milk or even Milo. I’ll just make the choices that are right for us…which has no bearing on what’s right for anyone else.

        We’ve drifted onto an entirely new topic 🙂

        On the original topic–Did you hear that the company that was going to make chocolate toddler formula (which I compared to Milo) has taken it off the market due to consumer outrage? I read it on the Baby411 blog yesterday.

  9. Jim says:

    When I was in Colombia, I saw Milo on some of the menus at restaurants. I didn’t try it, though.

  10. Daphne says:

    Hi hi… its me again. =)

    I guess when we’ve never had the opportunity to compare prices, we will never find milk expensive.

    If you ever decide to buy Milo in Singapore, there are actually 2 options. One is manufactured locally, another is made in Australia. At the risk of sounding non-patriotic, I prefer the taste of the non-local one. haha…

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