Plant-based innovation is flourishing. Growing consumer interest in health, sustainability and ethics is driving plant-derived ingredients and products into high popularity, according to global market research firm Innova Market Insights. The company said that plant-based product claims increased by 62% globally (compound annual growth rate, 2013-2017), with growth occurring on platforms such as plant proteins, active botanicals, sweeteners, herbs and seasonings, and coloring foodstuffs.

"The dairy alternatives market has been a particular beneficiary of this trend," said Lu Ann Williams, director of innovation at Innova Market Insights, “with the growing availability and promotion of plant-based options to traditional dairy lines, specifically milk beverages and cultured products such as yogurt, frozen desserts and ice cream.”               

The dairy alternatives category was largely pioneered by — and continues to be led — by beverages. Global sales of dairy alternative drinks are set to reach US$16.3 billion in 2018, and they accounted for more than 8% of global dairy launches recorded by Innova Market Insights in 2017, up from 7% in 2016. Actual global launches more than doubled over a five-year period.

Spoonable nondairy yogurt has also seen strongly rising levels of interest, but from a smaller base, with a 48% compound annual growth rate for the 2013-2017 period, taking its share of dairy launches from less than 0.5% in 2012 to 1.5% in 2017. According to Innova Market Insights' consumer research, one in three U.S. consumers has increased consumption of plant-based milk/yogurt in the two years culminating at the end of 2017.

"In the move to offer something new, we are starting to see an increasing variety of non-soy plant-based ingredients, including cereals such as rice, oats and barley," Williams noted. "We also noticed an increase in nuts such as almonds, hazelnuts, cashews, walnuts and macadamias, as well as coconut and more unusual options such as lupin, hemp and flaxseed."

Innova Market Insights will be presenting new data on all the key consumer trends driving the industry at booth #S0460 at the IFT Food Expo in Chicago on July 16-18.