Product review: Devondale Fast Start

Written by Catherine Saxelby on Tuesday, 15 October 2013.
Tagged: breakfast, breakfast cereals, calcium, children, chocolate, coffee, convenience, dairy, drinks, Liquid breakfast, school lunch, sugar, sugary drinks, vitamins

Product review:  Devondale Fast Start

I'm sure you must have seen the ads for this new liquid breakfast product. They focus on the fact that it is made "from milk not soy". One shows a man pulling a "yuk face" when he tastes a soy product at the same time as his daughter shows him her latest drawing and she misinterprets his screwed-up face for dislike of her painting! Another has the man's wife mentioning that they're visiting her mother at the same moment as he tastes the soy drink.

Again, she misinterprets his distaste for the drink as distaste for his mother-in-law. They're memorable ads, trading off the notion that soy drinks don't taste very nice... and some even taste so dreadful, you'll pull a face when you sip one. So does this Devondale "made from milk" liquid breakfast taste great? Here's how we thought it stacked up.

We spotted Fast Start at the supermarket in a three-pack which was shrink-wrapped and sold as a bundle. To reinforce the point, there's an illustration of a cow with the Devondale logo (a well-known Australian milk brand) along with the tag line "Real milk not soy" to remind you, the buyer, of the advertising punch line.

Fast Start comes in three flavours, chocolate, vanilla and coffee - all in standard 250ml tetra packs like most other liquid breakfasts on the market.

Taste – combined score 5.5 out of 10Devondale Fast Start 2

We sampled the chocolate, vanilla and coffee varieties. Our expectations were high given that the advertising promises an attractive taste experience without any soy aftertaste or texture problems.

We must admit that the soy drinks we've tried have NOT tasted good. In fact some are downright unpleasant and unappetising; so much so that we wondered why they're still on the market and who really is buying them. Perhaps they're buying and trying once but never again! So we picked up on the single point of difference on the taste of milk compared to the taste of soy.

Overall, Fast Start is certainly superior in taste to other breakfast drinks on the market but in saying that, the taste isn't that great. Still a little too artificial tasting for my liking. However, as promised, there is no bad aftertaste which is present in most other breakfast drinks.

The texture was noticeably different too. Fast Start is extremely thick and smooth. Other breakfast drinks I have tried have had some off-putting sedimentation at the bottom of the pack and have really needed a vigorous shake before opening. There was no sedimentation in Fast Start, the drink was mixed really well and was consistent over the three flavours. It is certainly more thick and viscous than normal milk but is quite pleasant to drink as there is no chalky, furry aftertaste.

Chocolate - range from 3 to 7/10. Average of 6/10
This was the most favourable flavour of the three. It had a very thick (almost thick-shake-like) but smooth texture. The chocolate taste was mild and was more of a bitter dark chocolate than a sweet dark chocolate. It had no bad aftertaste. It tasted nothing like a normal chocolate milk and really lacked in sweetness compared to generic chocolate milk. The majority of the tasters liked the more natural chocolate flavour, however, a couple of tasters would have preferred a slightly sweeter flavour.

Vanilla – range from 3 to 7/10. Average of 5.5/10
This flavour was certainly the sweetest of the three. It tasted very similar to vanilla custard. The colour, sweetness, mild aroma and slightly artificial vanilla reminded me of vanilla custard. And if it was slightly thicker you would not be able to tell them apart! The vanilla taste itself wasn't bad, however, it was a little too sweet for some of the tasters which was why it scored only moderately. However, I think that because of this sweetness, this flavour would be the most popular amongst children.

Coffee – range from 2 to 7/10. Average of 5.5/10
This coffee flavour had a runnier texture compared to the other two. It was reminiscent of the texture of other breakfast drinks on the market. It was still smooth, clean and consistent. You have to be a coffee-liker to enjoy this flavour. It was quite bitter and certainly not as tasty as other iced coffee drinks on the market. You sort of expected it to be aerated and light like other coffee milks but it wasn't. It tasted like a cheap iced coffee from a café – cold instant coffee with not enough ice-cream! The flavour certainly favoured older taste buds. All the tasters agreed that this flavour would be a lot more palatable if it was just slightly sweeter.

Why is Fresh Start so thick?

Several ingredients increase the thickness and create a smooth "rich" mouth-feel. In order, there's a modified starch thickener 1442, then some milk solids which would boost the calcium level too (think of dried milk powder). Cereals, basically three flours help, as does a gum, 407.

Devondale Fast Start 3

Nutrition - 14/20

Claims made on pack – high in protein and fibre, goodness of three grains, 99% fat free, real milk not soy.

Like other liquid breakfast drinks, Fast Start is technically called a formulated supplementary food, thanks to the 8 added vitamins and 3 added minerals. They supply anywhere from 18 per cent (for vitamin A) of the average person's recommended intake up to 50 per cent for vitamin D. Think of it as a flavoured milk crossed with a multi-vitamin and you know where we're coming from.

Is it "high in protein"?
Yes, and you'd expect it to be given that milk is its prime ingredient. It has105g per serve.

Is it high in fibre?
Yes with 4g per serve but only because of its added inulin, a form of fibre extracted from chicory root that is soluble in liquids and doesn't settle at the bottom. Inulin is NOT the same as fibre from whole grain cereals or wheat bran.

Where's the "goodness of three grains"?
There's not a lot. The ingredient list tells me that there are 0.3% cereals in the form of oat flour, wholegrain corn flour and wheat flour. But 0.3% is tiny so I wouldn't expect much here. What's more, only the corn is classified as wholegrain. Oat flour and wheat flour sound like ordinary white refined flour to me.

Is it 99% fat free?
Yes at 1g fat per 100mL it is. This simply means it has 99% without any fat but "fat free" sounds more impressive. Again with low-fat milk as its leading ingredient, this is what I'd expect.

Watch the advertising speak!
The statement "goodness of three grains" is really bordering on the misleading in my opinion. I mean .3% means that of the 250ml only around 0.75g is grain! Now compare this to the message that the drink is 99% fat free. There are 2.5g of fat in this drink. That's three times the amount of so-called "grain goodness"! You really have to watch this advertising speak. If we used the same criteria for the grains they used for the fat we would say it was 99.7% grain-free!

Is it made from " real milk not soy"?
Yes. Not a trace of soy anywhere.

How much sugar is present?
The three are similar in their content of sugars which include BOTH the natural milk sugar (lactose) as well as added cane sugar. Per 100mL, chocolate has 9.2g, vanilla 9.7g and coffee 9.9g. This concentration is similar to most juices and soft drinks which have anywhere from 9 to 13g per 100 mL.

If you drink the whole tetra pack, which is how most of us would consume it in the mornings, then you'd take in 23.0g from chocolate, 24.3 from vanilla and 24.8g from coffee.

Allowing for HALF to be natural lactose, this means that you're drinking 12g of added sugar equivalent to 3 level teaspoons.

Allowing for ONE-THIRD to be natural lactose, this means you're drinking 6g of added sugar or 4 level teaspoons.Devondale Fast Start 4

Chocolate Fast Start

Low Fat Milk, Sugar, Maize Thickener (1442), Dietary Fibre (Inulin), Milk Solids, Cereals (0.3%) (Oat Flour, Wholegrain Corn Flour, Wheat Flour), Natural Flavour, Vegetable Gum (407), Vitamins (Niacin, B6, Thiamin, A, Folate, D), Minerals (Iron).

Additive 1442 - this is a starch called Hydroxy-propyl distarch phosphate made from maize not wheat
Additive 407 - this is Carrageenan, a natural gelling agent sourced from red seaweed in use for over 70 years.
(To read about these and more additives, grab a copy of Foodwatch A to Z from the Foodwatch shop)

Average Qty 250ml 100ml
Energy (kJ)  805  322
Protein (g)  10.5  4.2
Fat, total (g)  2.5  1.0
Fat, saturated (g)  1.7  0.68
Carbohydrate (g)  29.5  11.8
Sugars (g)   23.0  9.2
 Dietary fibre (g)  4.0  1.6
 Calcium (mg)  350  140
 Sodium (mg)  200  80
 Vitamin A (μg)  138  55.0
 Thiamin (mg)  0.38  0.15
 Riboflavin (mg)  0.50  0.20
 Niacin (mg)  3.5  1.4
 Folate (μg)  80.0  32.0
 Vitamin B6 (mg)  0.55  0.22
 Vitamin B12 (μg)  0.80  0.32
 Vitamin D (μg)  5.0  2.0
 Iron (mg)  2.5  1.0
 Phosphorus (mg)  300  120

 Vanilla Fast Start

Low Fat Milk, Sugar, Maize Thickener (1442), Dietary Fibre (Inulin), Milk Solids, Cereals (0.3%) (Oat Flour, Wholegrain Corn Flour, Wheat Flour), Natural Flavour, Vegetable Gum (407), Vitamins (Niacin, B6, Thiamin, A,
Folate, D), Minerals (Iron).

Average Qty 250ml 100ml
Energy (kJ) 813 325
Protein (g) 10.5 4.2
Fat, total (g) 2.5 1.0
Fat, saturated (g) 1.7 0.68
Carbohydrate (g) 30.0 12.0
Sugars (g) 24.3 9.7
Dietary fibre (g) 4.0 1.6
Calcium (mg) 325 130
Sodium (mg) 125 50

Coffee Fast Start

Low Fat Milk, Sugar, Maize Thickener (1442), Dietary Fibre (Inulin), Milk Solids, Coffee Powder (0.4%), Cereals (0.3%) (Oat Flour, Wholegrain Corn Flour, Wheat Flour), Colour (150d), Food Acid (Sodium Citrate), Natural Flavours, Vegetable Gum (407), Vitamins (Niacin, Thiamin, A, Folate, D, B12), Mineral (Iron).

Average Qty 250ml 100ml
Energy (kJ) 823 329
Protein (g) 10.5 4.2
Fat, total (g) 2.5 1.0
Fat, saturated (g) 1.7 0.68
Carbohydrate (g) 30.5 12.2
Sugars (g) 24.8 9.9
Dietary fibre (g) 4.0 1.6
Calcium (mg) 300 120
Sodium (mg) 125 50

Convenience - 10 out of 10

Available in 3 and 6 packs, it's almost too easy to buy and grab as you're heading out the door – as are all such liquid breakfast items. Store in the fridge if you prefer it cold but it can also be stored in the cupboard as it is long-life.

Sustainability - 7 out of 10

Made in Australia (a plus) by Devondale, one of Australia's top dairy companies, which is great to see in this busy space – also a comment on the decline of breakfast as life speeds up. Like other liquid breakfasts, the basic waxed tetra-pack is what makes it possible but the downside is that it needs to be thrown out after drinking. There's no way to recycle. Not organic, local, seasonable or fairtrade. Please dispose of in a bin.

Overall score 3.5 apples

Total score  - 36.5 out of 50
The total score adds up to 36.5 so that means it gets 3.5 apples
Apples 3 half smll

Website of the manufacturer:

Taste testers: Thanks to our tasters Gordana, Davood, Aresh, Daisy Coyle (student) and Catherine Saxelby