It’s difficult to keep up with all of the plant-based dairy products hitting the grocery shelves these days! From ice cream to cream cheese to milk, there’s something new almost every week during my grocery run. Yogurt is an area where consumers have learned about dairy alternatives over several years as brands have experimented and innovated. But the plant-based consumer is an enigma…who are they? Why do they consume plant-based products? Do they prefer a particular plant-based protein? There were so many unanswered plant-based yogurt questions that we decided to ask them ourselves!
Preferred plant bases
First things first! What kinds of plant-based yogurts are consumers consuming? The top three consist of: almond, coconut, and soy. This makes sense if you’ve seen a yogurt aisle at a grocery store lately. Soy protein has lost its luster in consumers’ eyes and almond and coconut are more palatable than other proteins like pea. An upcoming plant-based protein to watch is oat. This protein started in milk, but is gaining traction in the yogurt and ice cream space.
Plant-Based Yogurt Product Expectations
One of the most interesting facts we learned was that over half of consumers expect plant-based yogurt to taste the same as (or very similar to) traditional dairy yogurt. This provides a challenge, as many plant-based yogurts carry a bitter note from the plants used. Typically a masker must be used to help cover the unwanted off-notes. These are the notes that prevent many consumers from overcoming that “first bite hurdle”. Another way to increase palatability is to utilize a flavor complimentary to the plant base used. For example, choose a tropical fruit flavor in a coconut yogurt.
So let’s talk about what makes a consumer pick up a product (or leave it on the shelf). We asked consumers what attributes they consider when purchasing a plant-based yogurt. The top three responses were: flavor, good quality, and liking the taste. Now, these might seem a bit obvious. Who wouldn’t consider the taste when they choose their food? We can see that health and price also play a factor when we learn the next most important attributes: health, good value, natural tasting, and right price. We also learned that over half of consumers were more interested in the protein content of plant-based yogurts than the protein source.
Plant-Based Yogurt Flavor exploration
To get a peek into what consumers really want in a plant-based yogurt, we asked them to indicate which protein sources they were most interested in consuming in a plant-based yogurt. The results were not what you might expect. The top two sources of interest were walnut and quinoa! Following closely behind were: oat, macadamia, and chia. Perhaps consumers are more ready for innovation than we previously thought?
Lastly, let’s talk flavor! The list of possible flavors is nearly infinite, so we thought to ask about flavor camps instead. The two camps that rose to the top were: familiar fruit combinations (strawberry banana, raspberry pomegranate, etc.) and fruit/citrus combinations (strawberry orange, raspberry lemonade, etc.). Another camp to consider that still scored well is familiar/tropical fruit combinations (strawberry mango, pineapple coconut, etc.). Remember how we said certain flavors pair better with certain plant bases? With the popularity of coconut yogurt, tropical fruits are just the thing consumers are looking for – that way you don’t have to fight the plant base as much, and instead work with the plant base.
There’s so much more to learn about the plant-based dairy space. If you find yourself wondering what’s next – we’re here to help! Be sure to let us know your favorite plant-based yogurt and why you love it in the comments!