|Founded||1956 as the Plantmilk Society, 1965 as Plantmilk Ltd.|
|Founder(s)||Leslie J. Cross, C. Arthur Ling|
|Headquarters||Folkestone, Kent, England|
|Key people||Adrian Ling, managing director|
|Products||Vegan products, including soy milk, chocolate, egg-free mayonnaisse, soups, baking products|
Founded in 1965, the company sells a range of soy products, including chocolate, egg-free mayonnaise, puddings, soups and baking goods.
Plant milks have been used for hundreds of years, particularly in China. According to William Shurtleff and Akiko Aoyagi, almond milk became a popular drink in Europe during Lent, and was first mentioned in English in 1390 in The Forme of Cury ("Forms of Cookery"). There is an early Western mention of milk from the soy bean in June 1896 in the American Journal of Pharmacy, and in July 1897 in the United States Department of Agriculture's Farmer's Bulletin.
The first soy milk and soy-based infant formula in the West was developed in 1909 by John Ruhräh, an American pediatrician. Bottled soy milk was available commercially in China from the 1920s, and in 1931 Seventh-day Adventists in Madison, Tennessee, began production of soy milk fortified with calcium. In 1940 Vitasoy in Hong Kong began selling soy milk door to door.
Shurtleff and Aoyagi write that the word soymilk was first used in English in April 1936 in a paper in the Chinese Medical Journal, though the American dairy industry put pressure on producers to call it something other than milk; one company used the term Soya Lac instead. When the Vegan Society magazine, the Vegan, reported the first meeting of the Plantmilk Society in 1956, its article contained the first known use of the word plantmilk.
Plamil Foods started life as the Plantmilk Society, which was founded in June 1956 by Leslie Cross (1914–1979), an early member of the Vegan Society. The Vegan Society had emerged in 1944 as a result of a split within the British Vegetarian Society over whether vegetarians should consume dairy products and eggs. Cross, who became a vegan in 1942, was one of those who wrote regularly about the issue to the society's magazine, the Vegetarian Messenger. In 1943 he wrote that "in order to produce a dairy cow, heart-rending cruelty, and not merely exploitation, is a necessity. Milk and its derivatives are products of pain, suffering and abominable interference with the law of love."
Those who wanted to abstain entirely from animal products asked the Vegetarian Society if a section of the society's magazine could be devoted to non-dairy vegetarianism. When this was refused, one of the members, Donald Watson (1910–2005), set up his own quarterly newsletter, The Vegan, in November 1944, and with it founded the Vegan Society. One of the early concerns of the new society was how to produce a commercial plant milk as an alternative to dairy milk. In the spring of 1956, Leslie Cross placed an article in The Vegan proposing the creation of the Veganmilk Association. The aim would be to "produce and make available to the general public in Great Britain a milk, the ingredients of which would be of plant origin; which would satisfy nutritional requirements; and which would be palatable, attractive, and simple to use for the purposes for which dairy milk is now used." 
Members decided to call it the Plantmilk Society. The London Evening News carried a story about the new society, under the headline "Now your milk may come from a plant." C. Arthur Ling (1919–2005) became the chair, and Leslie Cross the treasurer and secretary; as of 2014 one of C. Arthur Ling's sons, Adrian, is the managing director of Plamil Foods. The first annual general meeting was held on 6 October 1956 at Friends' House in Euston Road, London.
It took several years of research and an investment of ₤20,000 to produce the soy milk, which was fortified with calcium and vitamins B2, B12 and D2. In 1965 the society became a limited company, Plantmilk Ltd, with Leslie Cross as its first full-time employee, and began production of its milk, which it called Plamil, from a rented factory in Iver, Buckinghamshire. A group of 16 vegans later took out loans to buy the freehold of a factory in Folkestone, Kent. In 1972 the company changed its name to Plamil Foods. During the 1970s, echoing the pressure brought by the American dairy industry in the 1930s, the company was not allowed in England to refer to its product as "soya milk," but had to call it "liquid food of plant origin," and thereafter "soya plantmilk."
Plamil products are suitable for vegans and are made by the company in its own factory; this gives them more control over the ingredients, which are listed on the company's website. The company is a "free from" producer and is sought out by people with allergies, as well as by vegans. Their organic chocolate products are registered with the Soil Association. Their products were registered with the Vegan Society until 2009, but Plamil withdrew its support of the society's trademark after the society agreed to certify products that might contain trace amounts of dairy milk, eggs or fish as a result of contamination during manufacturing. Since then Plamil has used its own vegan logo, rather than the society's.
The company sells organic unsweetened soy milk; horchata (tigernut milk), and organic plain and lemongrass egg-free mayonnaise. There is a range of chocolate products, such as dairy-free chocolate bars – including mint, orange with cranberries, rum and raisin, hemp and no added sugar – organic chocolate spreads sweetened with orange oil or rice syrup; Easter eggs and chocolate snowmen. There are also carob bars; vanilla, chocolate and strawberry ice-cream bases; pudding and jelly mixes; and baking ingredients, soups and sauces.
Products are available online from the company's website, which accepts UK and some overseas orders. Animal Aid and Amazon sell them online, and some non-UK companies offer them by mail order. They are also available in health-food stores, including Holland & Barrett, and in some Waitrose stores.
- "C Arthur Ling, 1919–2005", Plamil Foods.
- Reed Mangels, Virginia Messina, and Mark Messina, The Dietitian's Guide to Vegetarian Diets, Jones & Bartlett Learning, 2011, pp. 256–257.
- William Shurtleff and Akiko Aoyagi, History of Soymilk and Other Non-Dairy Milks (1226–2013), Soyinfo Center, 2013, pp. 5–8.
- "Vitasoy Story", Vitasoy International Holdings, Ltd.
- "The Plantmilk Society," The Vegan, X(3), Winter 1956, pp. 14–16.
- Leslie Cross, letter to the Vegetarian Messenger, 1943, p. 184, cited in Leah Leneman, "No Animal Food: The Road to Veganism in Britain, 1909–1944", Society and Animals, 7(3), 1999, pp. 222–223.
- John Heron, Editorial, The Vegan, IX(8), Spring 1956, p. 1.
- Leslie J. Cross, "A Veganmilk Association," The Vegan, IX(8), Spring 1956, p. 2.
- "Plantmilk," The Vegan, Autumn 1965, p. 32.
- Harry Maher, "The Milk of Human Kindness", interview with Arthur Ling, Vegan Views, 37, Autumn 1986.
- "About us", Plamil Foods.
- "Free from ...", Plamil Foods.
- "Plamil Organic Chocolate", Plamil Foods.
- "Plamil and the ‘Animal free’ Vegan Trademark", Plamil Foods.
- "New Modernised Vegan Logo for Vegetarian & Free From Products Welcomed by Food Manufacturing Industry", SourceWire, 2 June 2009.
- Products and Product range, Plamil Foods.
- "Shopping" and "Stockists", Plamil Foods.
- Plamil Foods.
- Cross, Leslie J. "Man and Nature", The Vegan, Summer 1948, pp. 6–8 (also available here).