Plant-Based Milk: Expo West 2022 Recap Series

Apr 1, 2022MarketBites, Uncategorized

The term plant-based was here until Sunday at ExpoWest. It spanned applications from the guessable non-dairy category all the way to laundry detergent and pet treats boomeranging back to the food category in seafood, snacks, beverages, supplements and more

If you think milk, it was at Expo West. To quote comedian Jack Whitehall, there are definitely more than 12 plant-based milks in the market: “We’ve got a coconut milk. We’ve got an almond nut milk. We’ve got a hazelnut milk. We’ve got a cashew nut milk. We’ve got a macadamia nut milk. We’ve got an oat milk. Rice milk. Hemp milk. Soy Milk. You can have it from a bean, from a pulse, from a nut, from a grain, from an oat, from a leaf, from a seed, from a tree.”

To be totally honest, there were even more bases than that. More on that later.

As I scoped out as many of the plant-based milk booths that my feet allowed me to trek to, without screaming at me, there were more than a few common themes:


Plant- Based Milks and Coffee

I was buzzing. So much milk. So much caffeine. So much to taste. As my body was processing the surplus of lattes I was slinging back, I thought, “What else do we know about when what, and how consumers are using plant-based milk?”

Surely us millennials are using it more than just for the lattes people tell us to stop buying if we ever want to afford a house.


Opportunities with Plant-Based Milk

According to our research, a secondary way consumers use plant-based milk is in coffee. Coffee is outranked by ‘in a fruit smoothie’ for those who consume both regular dairy milk and plant-based milk. It is also outranked by ‘on cereal’ for those who only consume plant-based milks. In fact, cereal is primed for plant-based milks’ positioning to grasp with “only 3% of plant-based drink launches globally [encouraging] consumption with cereals.”1 

Other ways consumers use it that closely follows coffee is ‘in a milkshake,’ ‘as an ingredient while cooking’ and ‘as a snack.’ This makes me think about all of the different textures, mouthfeel and how each plain base has its own flavor. There is probably something specific each different plant-based base does well or pairs with really well. The opportunities – we are doing pancakes, oatmeal, putting it in soups, making sauces, creaming up pasta dishes, baking cakes, making popsicles – are endless. 

If you need one more reason to think about usage expansion past coffee, let’s look at the time of day consumption. The majority of plant-based milk consumers, consume it in the morning and the afternoon, with a small percentage dabbling in it in the evening and a few stragglers late into the night.


Plant-Based Milk Brands at Expo West

To counter Jack Whitehall’s standup,* there are definitely more than 12 plant-based milks in the market. Scan through the OGs and some of the newer ones on the market that were spotted at ExpoWest:
(*NSFW but you can google it)


What’s Next for Plant-Based Milk?

Listen in on our latest Plant-Based Dairy Roundtable presented by Givaudan to find out. This discussion features insights into the plant-based dairy space and the consumers driving it. Our exclusive panel talks about who are plant-based consumers and about the non-consumers. You’ll learn about where ‘plant-based’ is in the product life cycle and what trends will influence the next plant base.

  1. “Encourage plant-based drink usage beyond coffee” Mintel, https://clients.mintel.com/insight/encourage-plant-based-drink-usage-beyond-coffee accessed March 24, 2022.

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