Whether or not you call it “milk”, you need to make room in the dairy case for plant-based beverages, which have been on the rise for years and are up over their already strong trend. According to consumer analytics firm, Information Resources, Inc.:
- Alternative milk is a $5.3B business and growing at >3x the rate of white + flavored milk
- Refrigerated alternative milk $ sales will surpass conventional milk by 2029
For years, soy milk topped the dairy alternative list, but has long since been eclipsed by almond milk. “It’s far and away the leading dairy alternative,” says UNFI Brands+ Product Business Manager, Marc Nosal. “Almond’s been number one for years. It’s priced reasonably, has a great flavor, and outsells soy, oat, coconut, and cashew milks combined. It’s absolutely imperative that retailers have it. Whether their customers are drinking it by the glass, or pouring it on cereal, it’s on their shopping list.”
Plant-based beverages currently hold a 9.3% volume share in the milk category. They typically contain less sugar and more protein. They’re appealing to people who, for dietary, environmental, or other reasons can’t, or choose not to, drink dairy. The former leader, soy milk, is the only segment not seeing growth against last year.
The biggest trend in dairy alternatives is oat milk which, according to Nosal, is on fire. “Oats require less water to grow than other dairy alternatives, especially almonds,” he says. “It’s receptive to the gum ingredients used to make the milk creamier, so the final product comes out very clean. Sales are up 234% this year; it’s growing so rapidly that oat, in its infancy, will overtake soy and claim the #2 spot by the end of 2021.”
Although dairy milk sales saw an uptick during the pandemic, they have been dropping. But don’t let that fool you, says Nosal. “Milk is still king, and the entire segment is so big you have to maintain a large amount of space for it. Just make sure you’re in both almond and oat milk in a big way. Those are two that need to be front and center in the dairy aisle.”