The Unstoppable Rise of Dairy-Free Milk: A 36 Percent Growth in 3 Years and Counting

As the plant-based food industry experiences fluctuations, dairy-free milk continues to soar in popularity.

By Milo Runkle

Innovation in the dairy-free milk sector has expanded beyond soy, coconut, and almond milk.

In the last three years, dairy-free milk sales have grown by 36 percent at a compounded annual growth rate of 11 percent. This trend is expected to continue, with the global dairy-free milk market predicted to grow at a compounded annual growth rate of more than 14 percent between 2021 and 2028.

But what drives the growing demand for vegan milk? Dan Buckstaff, Chief Marketing Officer at market insights firm SPINS, believes it is a combination of factors, such as consumer values, diet preferences, allergen concerns, and the desire for more sustainable options. Vegan milk is also performing well because it is often a closer replacement for animal-derived milk compared to other plant-based products, such as meat and cheese alternatives.

Innovation in the dairy-free milk sector has expanded beyond soy, coconut, and almond milk to include bases like potatoes, sesame seeds, and pecans. Oat milk, in particular, has experienced significant growth, with sales surging by 50.52 percent in the last year. This popularity is attributed to its allergen-friendly nature and sustainability advantages over soy and nut milks.

As the climate crisis intensifies, the need for a more sustainable food system becomes paramount. Traditional dairy producers are working to incorporate eco-friendly practices and communicate their environmental efforts to consumers. However, achieving a lower carbon footprint for resource-intensive animal milk is challenging.

Innovators are now exploring alternative methods, such as precision fermentation, to produce proteins without relying on animals. Companies like Perfect Day utilize this biotechnology to create animal-free whey, which is now found in vegan milk, ice cream, sports nutrition products, and more. With major corporations like Mars, Nestlé, and Bel Group partnering with Perfect Day, the market for dairy-free products made with precision fermentation is poised for significant growth in the coming years.

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