In recent months, we’ve received a bit of criticism — via email, online comments and other avenues — over our occasional coverage of plant-based dairy alternatives. The comments basically boil down to one complaint — that we’re somehow harming the dairy processing industry with such coverage.

I sincerely appreciate the feedback. That being said, Dairy Foods will continue to share market research findings, new product launches and other news tied to the plant-based dairy alternative space.

Why? Consider that:

  • A number of major dairy players have acquired companies that compete in the plant-based dairy alternatives space. For example, in 2017, Danone acquired Broomfield, Colo.-based WhiteWave Foods; WhiteWave now operates as part of Danone North America, White Plains, N.Y. And Dallas-based Dean Foods Co. became the majority shareholder of Good Karma Foods, Boulder, Colo., this past July.
  • Some other dairy companies have expanded into the plant-based dairy alternatives space on their own. For instance, Los Angeles-headquartered Halo Top Creamery recently introduced a line of coconut “milk”-based frozen desserts. And Perry’s Ice Cream, Akron, N.Y., added several flavors of a dairy-free frozen dessert, based on almond “milk,” for its ice cream stand customers.
  • New companies and brands are popping up within the space seemingly every day. One to watch: Riot Eats, a plant-based dairy alternative brand from Toronto-based GreenSpace Brands Inc., which made its debut at the 2018 Natural Products Expo East and CHFA East events. Products under the brand will begin to roll out to both the natural and conventional grocery channels in early 2019, beginning with organic shredded and sliced cheese alternatives.
  • The trend toward plant-based foods and beverages isn’t going away any time soon. In fact, Cincinnati-based Kroger Co. counted plant-based foods among its top five food trend predictions for 2019. What’s more, Future Market Insights, Valley Cottage, N.Y., forecasts that the global plant-based beverage market will reach $474.7 billion by 2028. The growth reflects a not-insignificant compound annual growth rate of 6.7%.
  • The trend toward plant-based foods and beverages is being driven by the all-important consumer. In fact, growth here could be linked to the rise in “flexitarians” — defined by Merriam-Webster as people who follow a mostly vegetarian diet but occasionally eat meat or fish. A 2018 study conducted by OnePoll and So Delicious Dairy Free found that nearly a third (31%) of Americans now consider themselves to be flexitarians, while more than half (52%) are trying to incorporate more plant-based meals into their daily eating routines.


Critical information

So it would be foolish for us — and for you — to ignore this fast-growing industry segment.

Depending on an individual dairy processor’s situation and go-to-market strategy, plant-based dairy alternatives present either an alternative growth avenue or a potential threat to dairy product sales. But it’s important for dairy processors in either situation to stay informed about new products, trends and opportunities within the space.

Those looking to enter or continue in the plant-based dairy alternatives arena could leverage this information to bolster their odds for success. Alternatively, those looking to compete more effectively against the segment could use the information to pinpoint the segment’s shortcomings in relation to dairy — and help fashion pro-dairy messaging for consumers.