I recently read that non-dairy offerings are officially mainstream. They’ve made their way from one or two items on the shelf to appearing across the grocery store! There are non-dairy yogurts, RTD coffees, cheeses, milks, and I guarantee we’ll see more as established brands branch out and create non-dairy offerings. This is great news for those who are lactose intolerant or those who choose not to consume dairy for health reasons, because even 5 years ago your choices would be much more limited than they are today.

First-bite Hurdle

There is, however, a little problem we call the “First-bite Hurdle” where consumers don’t want to take a second taste/sip. It goes without saying that a non-dairy offering like almond or soy milk isn’t going to taste the same as cow’s milk. If you’ve never tried plant-based milk and take a huge gulp, you might not be too pleased. It’s an acquired taste and is more palatable when incorporated into something like cereal or used a coffee whitener.

So what’s next for non-dairy dairy?

Why do people continue to purchase these products, and how do brands launch products that consumers want to buy? First and foremost, there’s the novelty factor and many of these newer products are packaged in such a genius – and trendy – design that you want to buy them. Sales will normalize in the near future as consumers decide which products taste best, which are affordable, or even what diet they are following.

There are ways to make non-dairy offerings more approachable and palatable to consumers – through the use of masking agents to lessen the astringent, bitter, or vegetative taste from plant-based dairy sources. Also, consider the flavor pairing with the protein source. A cinnamon roll flavor would be a better fit in an oat-based ice cream or consider a tropical pineapple yogurt in a coconut-based yogurt. Don’t those profiles seem to go together?

I believe there’s a currently-untapped market for non-dairy kids’ products. For kids with a dairy allergy, there aren’t very many fun, kid-oriented food and beverage products that fit their needs. Also, with the growing concerns around sugar and dairy for kids, these products might be replacing current options on the shelf. Usually, we see trends go from menu to grocery shelf, but since consumers needed some education on what almond or pea or cashew milk is – it started in grocery stores, so consumers could read the packaging. We’ll see more menus include non-dairy options to cater to those same consumers – so keep an eye on what’s on the menu and on the shelf.

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