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Cover issue 15

SPOTLIGHT ON: PLANT MILKS

The goal for all areas of the vegan sector must be to reach the level of crossover appeal that plant milks have managed. Often situated alongside the dairy milk products in the dairy aisle of supermarkets, vegan milk products have reached a level of status that many wouldn’t have believed possible a few years ago.

For a long time, it was soya milk that had a monopoly on the non-dairy scene. In fact, in 2008, Euromonitor International reported that soya milk had become a $1.2 billion dollar industry in the US
alone. However, due to rising concerns over the health and environmental impacts of soya consumption other dairy alternative milks have been given the opportunity to emerge.

The success seen by plant milks is perhaps most apparent by the vast distribution to all corners of the UK. It’s a huge achievement for an industry to take something niche and make it the norm as quickly as has been seen with plant milk. It is hard to go into a grocery shop or café now and not fi nd some form of plant milk on offer. Those places which don’t stock milk alternatives are getting left behind from a new generation of milk drinkers who want something healthier, more ethical and more environmentally-friendly than dairy milk.

One of the most impressive feats for plant milk is the way in which supermarkets have embraced it by stocking their own brand milks alongside the more well-known branded companies. This clearly shows a commitment and confidence in plant milk as a viable alternative to dairy.

Despite the growing variety of different types of plant milk hitting the market, soya milk still seems to be the dominant force in the world of plant milk. Of course, Alpro have been the brand pioneering the way in the UK and for many consumers this is the brand they will associate most strongly with dairy-free milk alternatives.

However, a PR faux pas in 2016 has turned some of the more dedicated and hard-core vegans off of buying the brand.

It was shortly after being taken over by dairy brand Danone, that the Alpro Twitter account tweeted support for making a third of human diet animal-based in order to be healthy. Of course, vegans don’t take to that kind of thing particularly well, and many now refuse to buy the brand.

This isn’t the only brand that has had PR issues thanks to slapdash social media posts either. Last issue, we reported on the huge boycott of products being seen by Rude Health after their bizarre Instagram posts gushing over full fat dairy milk. The plant based milk brand produces a large range of nut milks and is likely to see a huge drop in sales as a result.

Other brands seem to be doing a far better job of marketing themselves not only successfully to vegans, but also to a growing population of people who are looking for alternatives to dairy milk due to intolerances, allergies or simply for health reasons.

The reaction from vegan newbies to oat milk can often be one of turned up noses and apprehension, as they imagine porridge in a carton. However, Swedish-founded Oatly have created a campaign over the last few years that has encapsulated everything an up-and-coming vegan business needs to succeed. Great branding, matched with quality products and the right message has seen the brand leap-frogging many of those which have a more extensive history in the vegan sector.

Then, there is the giants of almond milk — Blue Diamond. The Californian-based almond drink producers have based their campaign around being the only company growing their own almonds, something which has proved rather popular.

In the past, plant milks have come under criticism for not being usable in hot drinks due to curdling from the heat. However, the positive for cafés and restaurants wanting to stock dairy alternatives is that many now produce wholesale, barista versions of their drinks that react well to being used in hot drinks and are far better for steaming for coffees. This has been something of a game-changer in the vegan movement and brings the level of quality of plant milks in line with dairy versions.

As more people choose to swap dairy for plant milks (one fifth of Brits are supposed to be making the change in 2018 alone, according to new research) the demand for non-dairy products is only going to increase. The only way for plant milks is up.

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