Dairy milk hasn’t lost the battle to plant-based alternatives, Mintel says

By Mary Ellen Shoup contact

- Last updated on GMT

Despite dairy alternatives gaining momentum, consumers are still showing interest in flavored and whole milk varieties. ©GettyImages/DenizA
Despite dairy alternatives gaining momentum, consumers are still showing interest in flavored and whole milk varieties. ©GettyImages/DenizA

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While plant-based non-dairy alternatives are finding their place in more and more home refrigerators, dairy milk has a few distinct advantages that manufacturers can emphasize to retain consumers within the category, according to Mintel.

The booming popularity of plant-based dairy milk alternatives is undeniable, Mintel says, as the category hit $2.11bn in the US, a 61% increase compared to 2012.

Almond (64% market share), soy (13%), and coconut (12%) remain the staples in the category, but consumers are increasingly diversifying their non-dairy purchases making way for new varieties such as pecan and quinoa non-dairy varieties.

“We predict that new plant bases such as cashew and rice will allow new entrants into the non-dairy milk category to eventually surpass the soy milk segment, one of the first non-dairy milk segments to really take off with consumers,”​ Megan Hambleton, beverage analyst at Mintel, said.

Opportunities for dairy

Despite the attention on dairy alternatives, dairy milk has also had some strong pockets of growth. Flavored milk, for example, is the fastest growing segment of the dairy milk category with estimated sales of $1.74bn in 2017, an 18% increase since 2012.

One in ten consumers who have purchased both dairy and non-dairy products said they are buying more dairy milk because of the innovative flavors.

While children under age 18 are more likely (78%) to drink flavored milk, it seems adults are pouring themselves a glass as well, with more than three quarters (76%) of adult flavored milk buyers saying they drink flavored milk, according to Mintel.

Another segment gaining momentum in dairy is whole milk, as sales have increased 8% since 2012 and are estimated to reach $5.36bn in 2017 compared to skim/low-fat milk, which decreased 28% in the last five years.

Even though many Americans are saying they are trying to consume less dairy, one in five (20%) perceive whole cow’s milk to be the healthiest, followed by skim/low-fat (18%), and almond milk (17%).

“Dairy milk often delivers on many of the attributes non-dairy milk consumers are looking for, but there is a clear lack of understanding,”​ Hambleton said.

“This indicates that dairy brands must better communicate the natural health benefits of dairy milk through campaigns or packaging claims. By focusing on some of the influential factors that non-dairy milk consumers want when looking for milk, such as flavor and health benefits, dairy milk brands may see more success retaining consumers within the category.” 

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2 comments

Climate change will overwhelm dairy and beef

Posted by Stuart,

Any discussion of the future of dairy must include its deleterious and overweight impact on causing climate change. It's really just a matter of time - a couple of years given the way global temperatures and hot weather are increasing - before consumers realize that dairy and beef and all their ingredients are a principal preventable cause of climate change.

This is because dairy cows and beef cattle emit enormous amounts of the greenhouse gas methane by belching it out their mouths. Methane is 25X more powerful than carbon dioxide at trapping heat and causing climate change. China is at the forefront of dealing with climate change and I'm betting they or California will be the first to implement a carbon tax on greenhouse gases in foods like dairy and beef. To be fair, the methane carbon tax will need to be 25X the CO2 equivalent tax.

The enormous price rise caused by a methane tax will be staged over time but will eventually make the prices of dairy and beef to go way up. But well before that, consumers will recoil at consuming foods and beverages containing methane-produced dairy milk, whey and casein and begin a voluntary boycott at the personal level. They will react against "methane milk" and, indeed, all dairy ingredients.

I would also add that all this discussion about dairy competing inside its categories is predicated on a lie: that efforts to combat climate change will not affect dairy and beef as the biggest food and beverage offenders. Carbon taxes or some variation are coming.

Dairy and beef producers and beverage developers using those ingredients would be wise to take a page from the car companies who are racing to create the electric vehicles of the future that will replace current cars. They need to get on board the plant protein express by either creating whole plant-based products or by developing dairy/plant blends that at least show consumers you're trying to deal with climate change.

Hiding your head in the sand is no way to deal with climate change. Dairy should definitely not try to compete with and denigrate plant protein drinks and milks - that will just infuriate consumers even more when they find out the significant negative role dairy plays in causing climate change. This future issue is rushing at us hard and fast. Some say it's already here as dairy consumption dropped significantly last year.

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Shifting consumer preference for lactose free and vegan alternative food & beverages due to increasing awareness for healthy diet will propel plant milk

Posted by shrikesh powar,

Shifting consumer preference for lactose free and vegan alternative food & beverages due to increasing awareness for healthy diet will propel plant milk market growth. Growing consumer base for plant based food products coupled with rising number of dairy alternative product launches are among key factors driving industry demand. As per analysis, new product launches in dairy alternatives witnessed growth over 20% from 2012 to 2016.


Increasing health concerns including overweight and diabetic diseases have encouraged the adoption of non-dairy substitutes over dairy products. As per industry experts, global per capita fluid milk consumption decreased by close to 23% from 2000 to 2016, while consumption of non-dairy plant milk substitutes grown by triple digits through the same period. As per analysis, global dairy alternative drinks industry is expected to surpass USD 16 Billion by 2018.


Regulatory compliance including ProVeg International, Peta and Veganuary will support product demand. Lactose intolerance and allergy among consumers are among major factors fuelling plant milk market size. Moreover, rising awareness about gastrointestinal diseases and stomach flues caused due to dairy products will drive the industry demand.


Extensive product portfolio including soy, almond, coconut and rice products will support product penetration. Abundant availability of raw material particularly in Asian countries will drive business growth. Rapid growth in global beverage industry will propel industry growth. Global beverage industry registered over 900 billion litres in 2016.


Intense competition among manufactures influencing drop in production costs will enhance plant milk price trend. Enhanced production process including extraction from rich sourced raw material has encouraged product development. Improved distribution network and procurement process supported by online sales channels are major factors supporting industry growth.


Increased preference for dairy products for infants coupled with price sensitivity may restrain the industry growth. As per NMPF, the product being referred as milk is anticipated to hamper industry demand. However, introduction of standards to reconsider non-farm products by NMPF and USFDA will enhance product demand.

https://www.gminsights.com/industry-analysis/plant-milk-market

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