More Brits are drinking plant-based milk alternatives

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Almond, oat, coconut and other plant-based milk alternatives have all seen a rise in demand, research from Mintel has revealed.

Almost a quarter (23%) of Brits used plant-based milk alternatives in the three months up to February 2019, up from 19% in 2018.

Growth of milk alternatives is largely fuelled by more recent category entrants such as oat (volume sales of which grew 71% between 2017), coconut (up 16% between 2017-18) and almond variants (up 10% between 2017-18), all of which have become more commonplace in supermarkets.

Plant-based vs Cow’s Milk

While plant-based milk alternatives continue to grow in popularity, according to Mintel research, they accounted for just 4% of volume sales of white milk in 2018. Furthermore, their use in cooking and hot drinks remains limited. Only 25% of plant-based milk alternatives consumers use these products in cooking, compared to 42% for standard cow’s milk users. The difference is even wider with hot drinks. Just 42% of plant-based milk alternatives consumers use them in hot drinks, compared to 82% for standard cow’s milk users. Nevertheless, a fifth (21%) of Brits believe nut milks add more flavour to drinks than cow’s milk.

Highlighting that there are more opportunities for further growth in the plant-based milk alternatives trend, 65% of plant-based milk users would welcome advice on how to use plant-based milk/cream alternatives in cooking/baking. 24% of non-users also interested in such advice.

Ethical Drinkers

The trend is larger among the 16-24 age group. As much as a third (33%) use plant-based milk alternatives, and 37% have reduced their consumption of cow’s milk in the last 12 months for health reasons.

Environmental concerns are also playing a role, with 16-24s likely (36%) to agree that dairy farming has a negative impact on the environment. The significantly lower usage of cow’s milk among the younger generation is also in line with these consumers being most likely to report dairy avoidance in their household, at 26% of under-35s.

Mintel’s research highlights the importance of ethics and the environment for the milk and dairy industry. Aa third (33%) of milk, milk drinks and cream users are interested in products in a bottle/container made either wholly or partly of recycled plastic. Meanwhile, a quarter (27%) of users are interested in products with a guarantee of sustainable farming. Around one in seven (15%) users are interested in products with an on-pack statement of how many days the animals spent outside.