Growing plant-based milk sales serve as ‘gateway’ for other non-dairy categories

By Elizabeth Crawford

- Last updated on GMT

Growing plant-based milk sales serve as ‘gateway’ for other non-dairy categories

Related tags plant-based Dairy alternatives

Despite a slight dip in plant-based dairy sales in the last three quarters – mostly due to higher prices – “there is a lot of sustained appetite for plant-based dairy, and we’re very optimistic for future growth opportunities in this category,” Bethany Gomez, managing director of The Brightfield Group said last week during a webinar hosted by FoodNavigtor-USA.

“Plant-based diary – and plant-based milk in particular – is really the quiet superstar of the plant-based category”​ with sales and household penetration of plant-based milk growing in the past two years, she explained during FoodNavigator-USA’s webinar Plant-based dairy: From oatmilk to chickpea ice cream​,​ which aired May 17 and is now available on demand for free.

She added the growth in plant-based milk bodes well for the broader plant-based dairy segment as it often acts as a “gateway to other plant-based dairy products.”

She explained, “People who have consumed plant-based milk are more than twice as likely to purchase plant-based cheese, yogurt and ice cream,”​ with penetration of these categories among shoppers who buy plant-based milk at 8%, 10% and 13%, respectively.

Despite this positive correlation, household penetration for plant-based yogurt, ice cream and cheese are still a small fraction of the market, and much lower than that of milk at 4%, 4% and 3% respectively in the first quarter of 2023 compared to 26% for plant-based milk, according to data from The Brightfield Group.

“This signals opportunity and unmet consumer demand that is still present in the market today,”​ Gomez noted, adopting a glass-half-full perspective.

Her optimism is supported by data showing that consumers who buy plant-based cheese and ice cream tend to be younger and more likely to have children in their homes, which suggests as they and their children age and their respective buying power increases these products will become more mainstream.

She also noted that plant-based milk consumers skew female, younger (with 51% 24 to 49 years old) and higher income with 71% earning more than $50,000. Their top reasons for buying plant-based dairy include digestive health (cited by 30%), better nutrition (24%) and no lactose (21%).

Gomez drilled down further into who buys plant-based cheese, ice cream and yogurt and who buys specific types of plant-based milk and why – shedding light on the market potential and challenges for each.

During the webinar, Gomez was joined by brand leaders across the non-dairy segment who also shared consumer insights as well as how they are meeting unmet need, overcoming challenges that are holding back non-dairy products and where they see the segment moving in the next few years.

These included:

  • Stephanie Banham​, CEO and co-founder of the children’s plant-based milk company KiddiWinks​,
  • Andrew Yu​, CEO of plant-based cheese brand Armored Fresh​,
  • Andre Menezes​, CEO and co-founder of plant-based food company Next Gen Foods, ​and
  • Damian Piedrahita​, co-founder and CEO of plant-based gelato brand Mwah!

Learn more about where the plant-based dairy segment is headed, including specific steps to help expand its reach, sales and units by registering and listening on demand​ to the webinar Plant-based dairy: From oatmilk to chickpea ice cream​.

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