Global snapshot: Plant-based dairy alternatives have a permanent place in grocery stores


Global snapshot: Plant-based dairy alternatives have a permanent place in grocery stores

Plant-based products are no longer niche specialty items relegated to the healthy food aisles at the grocery store.

Products like soy milk, oat milk coffee creamer, and cashew cheese are sold alongside their traditional dairy counterparts.

Dairy-free weathers global market challenges

Though the animal-free dairy movement got its start from small brands,  CPG giants are now fully on board. Greek yogurt brand Chobani, for example, broke away from its dairy roots to launch a range of plant-based products, including yogurt and milk made from coconut and oats.

Plant-based dairy products might be associated with heavy-hitting U.S. brands, but the trend has worldwide appeal. In addition to the U.S., sales of plant-based milk alternatives are skyrocketing in global markets like the U.K., Germany, and Spain.

As milk substitutes gain shelf space in stores, they are growing globally at a rate that’s 3% higher than last year. The NielsenIQ Global Snapshot report shows that this trend hasn’t been affected by current industry challenges, either.

Turkey and Russia are two markets that have seen significant price increases for CPG products, but consumers are still purchasing milk substitutes during this period of inflation.

Milk substitutes – year to date vs year ago

What are critical KPI’s across dimensions?

Flexitarian is the way forward

In 2022, there’s a plant-based alternative to every dairy product on the market. Milk, cream, yogurt, cheese, butter, and ice cream have all had the vegan treatment. Dairy substitute bases are made from a growing list of conventional and unusual plants, like soy, almonds, coconut, oats, cashews, peas, chia seeds, hemp, and rice. 

  These products are experiencing rapid growth thanks in part to their growing popularity outside of the vegan community. A pre-pandemic survey found that about 45% of European consumers live “flexitarian” lifestyles where they consume both dairy and plant-based dairy alternative products. Just 4% said they only consume dairy-free alternatives. 

Consumers like to pick and choose what suits them. If a customer experiences lactose intolerance symptoms when they drink dairy milk, but not when they eat dairy cheese, they might prefer to buy almond milk alongside dairy cheese every week.  

Other consumers might choose dairy alternatives because they consider them to be healthier and more environmentally sustainable than animal by-products. Regardless of their purchase reasons, people now expect to have multiple options at their local supermarket that fit their needs.   

Consumers are buying and trying plant-based dairy alternatives across the world more than ever due to their increased availability and popularity. Download the NielsenIQ Global Snapshot to learn more about the plant-based dairy landscape in 2022.