While traditional animal-derived dairy remains a popular consumer choice, producers are now faced with an exciting opportunity to capitalize on the growing popularity of vegan, vegetarian and flexitarian diets that are driving demand for plant-based dairy alternatives. The global dairy alternatives market is booming. It’s expected to grow from $19.79 billion in 2020 to $47.95 billion by 2028, at a CAGR of 11.7% from 2021 to 2028, according to a Fior Markets report

This significant anticipated growth hasn’t gone unnoticed. In fact, in this already crowded market, there is an increased need for producers to stand out. In 2021 alone, more than 4,500 new plant-based meat and dairy alternatives were introduced globally, according to Mintel’s Global New Products Database.  

The perceived “health halo” of these products, or simply consumers’ desire to try something new, is propelling demand for plant-based dairy alternatives. The ongoing market advancement is also, in part, being fueled by today’s eco-conscious consumers — 72% of U.S. consumers believe that plant-based dairy alternatives are better for the environment, states a 2021 FMCG Gurus report. Recent research also reveals that approximately 25% of all age groups globally are starting to follow a more flexitarian diet, where plant-based alternatives are a staple, notes the same report. 


Bringing taste, texture and health to the forefront 

Taste and texture remain key priorities for producers — 62% of people said that taste is their No. 1 priority when buying food or drink products, according to DSM’s 2020 “Future of Food” report. But as people become more health-conscious, they are increasingly opting for healthier food and beverage products, including options with reduced sugar or added nutrition such as vitamin fortification. 

Achieving the desired sweetness, taste profile and expected creaminess without added sugars can be difficult, especially in starch-based drinks such as oat milk, which require additional steps during the production process to ensure great taste and texture. To achieve the right profile, the starch must instead be made soluble; the potential undesired off-notes of plant protein must be masked; and the natural sweetness in raw materials such as rice and oats has to be unlocked.

Plant-based dairy alternatives are often lower in essential nutrients such as vitamin B2, vitamin B12, protein and calcium, which play an important role in red blood cell formation and healthy bone growth. And consumers are taking note; 85% who follow an elimination diet are aware that they might not be meeting the recommended levels of essential vitamins and minerals, DSM’s 2019 Global Health Concerns study found. So fortified food and beverages can offer additional appeal to these consumers. 


Creating a brighter, more sustainable future together 

There is a huge amount of potential in the plant-based dairy alternatives category. But to really stand out in this crowded space, brands need to create products that taste good, have an authentic texture and provide a good source of protein, vitamins and nutrients.