Alt Drinks Revolution is officially on a Roll - But Will it Survive Against Long-established Dairy Industry?

2020-03-24 | Future Market Insights | Food and Beverage

Health halo around plant-based diet is shining brighter with every passing day. 2018 witnessed the rise of veganism as the fastest growing culinary trend in developed countries. Sales of chilled vegan food and drinks rose by a comfortable margin, compelling super markets to double the space allocated to plant based alternatives. While animal-based diet remains a mainstream, Future Market Insights’ survey reveals that plant-based beverages market will rise at an impressive 6.7% CAGR between 2019 and 2029. Big brands such as The Coca-Cola Company and PepsiCo are making huge investments in vegan drinks is indicative of the growth prospects of the market in the near future.

Latest news on veganism suggest that plant based milk is no longer a niche category. Buoyed by surging vegan diets, the demand for dairy alternative milks is on a rise. Meanwhile, the decelerating sales of cow’s milk, coupled with its falling prices, have led to the shutdown of several dairy farms especially in developed countries. This is happening on account of dwindling reputation of milk. Anxieties about lactose intolerance, animal cruelty, bovine antibiotics, and the industry’s overall environmental impact are posing threat to the traditional dairy industry.

Do Plant-based Drinks Have the Superpower to Disrupt Dairy Industry?

The impact of plant based drinks boom cannot be restricted to switching to dairy alternatives. To converts, it weighs more than a simple change in their purchase decision, it implies a fundamental shift to a more sustainable way of living. To critics, they mean more than strategically thought ideas of marketing nut juices, they signal a faulty food culture that has engulfed the modern society. This has translated into a strange conflict of interest, a battle between an emerging industries trying to replace the tradition prevalent since ages, which has laid its foundation on the premise of a healthy diet.

Having grown out of a niche category, plant milk has become a product for mainstream consumers. This has in turn spurred prevailing competition as the landscape in dairy alternatives space has significantly changed with the emergence of PepsiCo, Coca-Cola, Danone, and several other big names. Alarmed by their rising popularity, several coffee and cereal manufacturers had to reformulate their products to suit the desired taste of consumers. This was achieved by various technological advances that made possible mimicking original taste of dairy milk.

Will Supermarkets Ditch Dairy for Plant-based Drinks?

Besides favourable growth trends, the plant based beverages sale is aided by extreme consumer awareness. It is important to note that market today is dealing with a different breed of consumers, who instead of committing to a brand prefer to pick and choose what suits their lifestyle the best. For instance, the demand for plant based drinks even vegan beer is spurred by consumers’ preference for lactose-free, dairy-free, and vegan choice of drinks.

In response to this, leading players are increasingly focusing on innovations. For instance 'Herbal Table Water' by SD Watersboten's is meant to relax drinkers and uplift their mood. Similarly plant protein milks launched by Bolthouse Farms are diet friendly and allergen free, made particularly to suit vegan meal plans. These drinks standout as healthier alternatives to sugar-filled soda and beverages.

Innovations do not end here. The industry has taken a step forward with the launch of revolutionary new grade of beverage made from spent grains. Spent grains are residue left behind after brewing process. Canvas, backed by Anheuser-Busch InBev (AB), undertook the initiative to reuse spent grains to derive plant-based barley milk. In sometime this alt milk has become widely popular and is offered in turmeric chai, cocoa and cold brew, matcha and latte flavours.

Almond Milk at Fore of Millennial Alt-milk Trend

Recent surveys have reported steady decline of traditional dairy industry and corresponding incline of vegan milk, citing almond milk at the top of alt-milk trend among millennial. According to the Dairy Farmers of America (DFA), the sales of traditional milk has considerably dropped in the last two years. Concurrently, the plant-based beverages market was forecast by Future Market Insights to surpass US$ 266.16 Bn in 2019.

Several dairy farmers in the state of California are apparently making a shift to the ongoing trend and are focusing on almond farming. A leading industry expert has revealed that an increasing number of dairy farmers, especially in developed countries with access to adequate resources, are diversifying into almond as a more profitable way forward.

Is Plant based Drink a Fad or Is It Here to Stay?

The demand for plant based drinks and beverages tops among millennial. This demography has adopted plant-based beverages as a mean to sensibly indulge while not deviating from their long-term health goals. An interesting fact supporting its longevity is that consumption of plant-based drinks is not about snubbing milk or other dairy products. It is neither necessary for a consumer to be vegan or a vegetarian.

It is important to understand that taste matters first for consumers while attributes such as health, fitness, and convenience might go far to drive consumption. However, if the taste fails to impress consumers, the product is more likely to have a short-run.  As a result, companies operating in the plant-based beverages market follow the art and science of creating authentic flavours. With their focus on creating authentic taste, besides functional benefits, plant-based beverage producers are singularly targeting to offer more delicious products.