Move over dairy. Plant-based milks are taking over the world. But do they taste as good as the real thing? Are they a great substitute? Do they benefit the environment?
Let’s find out…
When you order a cup of coffee these days, your milk options are so vast. And it’s not just vegetarians, vegans and lactose intolerant individuals who are opting for alternatives. Plant-based milks have completely changed the food industry, and the demand for these products has really taken off in the last few years.
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How Has The World Changed?
A recent study shared that 42% of global consumers say that they are limiting their consumption of animal-based products. This has created an opportunity for manufacturers to develop new products and expand on existing ranges. The plant-based dairy industry is one of the biggest globally, with global retail value sales of over USD20 billion in 2021.
Know Your Oats
The most substantial growth of milk alternatives have been in Western countries, with oats being the star of the show in the plant-based milk space. Why is this happening? Mainly because oats are more sustainable than other alternatives. For example, almonds need a lot of water to grow, which is not great for sustainability.
At the moment, almond milk dominates the market, but oat milk is growing fast. The challenge is always how to deliver on the taste and texture of dairy milk, while keeping in mind nutritional and dietary factors that match it, or are better.
What Is That Taste?
The taste of milk alternatives is so important. Oats have a neutral flavour that seems to be well accepted. Oat milk is therefore a great alternative for coffee snobs because it doesn’t overpower the flavour of the coffee. From a health perspective, oats are known for their content of prebiotic fibre.
Try Something New
New ingredients are being tested all the time and new products make their way to the shelves frequently. You might have come across milks made of barley, chickpeas, sunflower seeds and even potatoes.
A big consideration in the milk alternative industry is precision fermentation. It is possible to exactly replicate dairy ingredients like whey by using microorganisms like yeast in a fermentation process.
The Humble Potato
In 2022, what about swapping your soy milk for potato milk? According to British retailer Waitrose, milk from the humble spud is set to be one of 2022’s biggest food trends, according to the supermarket’s annual Food and Drink report. Going back to the issue of sustainability, using potatoes instead of almonds to make plant milk is more environmentally friendly.
Potatoes saved people from starving during the 19th century and it’s quite the superfood – it has good protein, high starch content, and a high vitamin C content. Convinced about switching to spuds? This milk alternative is currently available in Sweden, the UK and China. The milk has a creamy texture and neutral taste.
Milk That Cares
Although dairy alternatives were created for vegans, the market is now focused on a range of consumers. Today, flexitarians and omnivores are concerned about their health, but more and more people are considering animal welfare when it comes to food and beverage consumption, as well as climate change.
What’s A Flexitarian Anyway?
Plant-based products are gaining market share at a rapid rate, with six out of 10 people becoming flexitarian during the pandemic. For those not familiar with the term, flexitarian is a cross between vegan and vegetarian, with an allowance for animal products now and then. During the past two years, consumers have been choosing plant-based milk alternatives because they believe it is healthier for them and better for the planet.
Be Kind To The Planet
There is a lot of debate around plant-based alternatives and whether they are a better environmental option. The question remains regarding the impact of operations when it comes to issues like deforestation, water usage and greenhouse gas emissions.
Sustainability is number one and especially in the last year, consumers have become more vocal about environmental concerns. In 2021, 19% of consumers said they would be more mindful about the products they purchase, to do their part for the planet. The health of the planet is now a major consumer concern, and this is only going to grow.
A Question Of Taste
With all this in mind, it’s interesting to note that consumers and their taste buds still prefer the real thing. Very few people choose plant-based products because of their taste. They are more motivated by other factors. Dairy still sells more units collectively, with 56% of consumers buying and drinking milk.
So, there is a demand for plant-based alternatives due to health and environmental concerns, but people still prefer the taste of real milk. Where does that leave the industry? You could say there is an opportunity with a market for those who are looking for a mix of plant-based and dairy products in their diet.
Give Them The Best Of Both
Creating products that include dairy milk with alternatives like oats or almonds gives people what they want. For example, there are products made with real cheese and chickpeas, so you can have the taste and texture of real dairy but balance it with plant alternatives. These kinds of hybrid products are where innovation is headed and certainly the next generation is enjoying the best of not just both, but all worlds.
Eating And Drinking For Our Future
We don’t just eat and drink to nourish ourselves anymore. We eat and drink with deliberate choices, to show the world a different side of humanity.
Our basic needs don’t change, but the way we meet them is more thoughtful and considered. If we can learn to love milk made from potatoes and entertain a bit of chickpea in our cheese, who knows what the industry will be cooking up just a few years from now. There is hope for our planet yet. We’re choosing more kindness, more flexibility – one glass of milk, one bowl of cereal, one cappuccino at a time.