Let’s continue the Plant-Based Dairy Roundtable discussion with a question and answer with Givaudan’s Market and Consumer Intelligence partner, Miriam Aniel from Tastewise. Tastewise brings a unique perspective on the plant-based dairy market through their AI platform that compiles global data sources, including social media, home cooking analytics, and millions of restaurants and their menu items to bring the freshest insights.
Let’s dive into what new bases consumers are talking about, what flavors are ticking up and to the right, what are the top plant-based social media posts and recipes, and more.
Q: In general, what plant bases are consumers talking about?
A: The top plant bases for alternative milks, ranked by popularity, are:
- Almond – accounting for 28%
- Coconut – accounting for 22%
- Oat – accounting for 19%
- Soy – account for 4%
Of those top bases, only oat milk is continuing to trend upward over the past year; the rest are currently stable.
Q: Any new plant-bases popping up?
A: We’re seeing a few plant bases demonstrate early trend signals in recent months:
- Pistachio milk is up +10% YoY in consumer interest
- Mung bean milk is up +8% YoY in consumer interest (and is a traditional Chinese beverage that is starting to attract attention outside of the cuisine)
- Grain and seed milks are on the move; barley milk and sesame milk are up 30% and 13% YoY respectively in consumer interest
Q: Typically in the dairy space we see the ‘normal’ flavors as top – vanilla, strawberry, chocolate, peach, mixed berry, cherry etc. Are consumers looking for something different or are they sticking with the tried and true?
A: It’s an interesting time for “new” or niche flavors; interest in “unique” flavors and food experiences is up +53% since the start of COVID as consumers have broadened their horizons throughout the pandemic by exploring new recipes, cuisines, and dishes.
This extends to plant-based dairy; while sweet flavors dominate (20% of all plant-based dairy dining occasions feature sweet flavors), we’re seeing some new flavor profiles rise over the past year: smoky is up 12% in popularity in plant-based dairy contexts, savory +15%, and salty +23%. Specifically, the following savory ingredients are trending upward within plant-based dairy, either as a flavor or a pairing:
- Fennel +20% YoY
- Miso +38% YoY
- Chili +28% YoY
- Pickle +42% YoY
- Ube +67% YoY
Q: What are the top recipes consumers are using plant-based milk, yogurt and coffee creamer as ingredients?
A: Plant-based Milk: The top recipes with plant-based milk revolve around soups, sorbet, and shakes – like these all with over a million uses!
Plant-based Yogurt: The top recipes involving plant-based yogurt gravitate towards heartier items, like baked and fried goods. These three recipes all claim around 25K uses and are the top recipes for the category.
Plant-based Creamer: Top recipes involving plant-based creamer tend to focus on heartier items as well – like protein-rich veggie dishes or indulgent baked goods. The creamy French lentil recipe has over 175K uses. Others in the category have much less traffic and indicate opportunities for growth (such as the recipes for the vegan brioche brand and vegan French toast bake).
Q: What are examples of plant-based dairy posts that have garnered the most attention or engagement on social media?
A: We see that the social media posts attracting the most attention in the category focus on:
Dairy-free versions of classic dairy desserts, like ice cream – like this news about Baskin Robbins’ oat milk ice cream
View this post on Instagram
Twists on popular trends outside of the plant-based category – such as espresso martinis using dairy-free milk.
View this post on Instagram
Non-vegan, protein-heavy dishes that use coconut milk to amp up flavor and authenticity – including this post for chicken thighs in coconut milk demonstrates how plant-based dairy consumption isn’t always about veganism – or even plant-based.
View this post on Instagram
Q: What are you seeing on your side as far as who is and isn’t consuming plant-based dairy?
A: Plant-based dairy isn’t just for vegans or the lactose intolerant anymore. A range of people turn to the category, whether it is to accomplish functional health goals, leave a smaller footprint on the environment, or experience their meal in a new way. Specifically, we’re seeing a lot of diversity among audiences in how they relate to the category. A few major takeaways:
- Gen X is 10x more likely than Gen Z to eat alternative dairy products
- Millennials account for 40% of people who eat plant-based dairy (that’s 2x more than Gen X consumers, and 15 x Baby Boomers!)
- Moms only account for 7% of alternative dairy eaters, and have seen a low dip in interest over the past two year — this may indicate an opportunity to re-engage moms around health and convenience qualities of plant-based products
- Foodies account for 16% of plant-based dairy eaters and drinkers, supporting the movement towards plant-based dairy as a hip, interesting, and gourmet category. However, chefs only account for 3% of plant-based dairy eaters and drinkers, indicating an opportunity to expand that perspective to foodservice.
- Females account for 48% of plant-based dairy eaters and drinkers – 6x more women eat alt dairy than men!
- Health-focused audiences account for 14% of plant-based eaters and drinkers.
Q: What themes do you see growing in social conversations and mentions around plant-based dairy? Is anything making a comeback?
A: Within the plant-based dairy category, we are watching three themes closely: functional health, sustainability, and gourmet experience.
First up, functional health
Interest in health broadly is going down, but specific claims are going up in consumer interest – which points to the rising specificity of today’s consumption. ‘Functional health’, a concept in food and beverage that has been around in the American mainstream for a few years, encompasses health benefits that extend beyond nutritional content to positive impact on specific areas of our health and wellness – benefits like sleep support, gut and brain health, stress relief, and more.
Plant-based dairy is a category that is naturally aligned with health and wellness. Health is the top motivation behind vegan eating and drinking in the US, and is 7x more common than animal rights considerations for vegan eating occasions — and consumers call out the health benefits of plant-based dairy in nearly a third of all dining occasions.
When eating plant-based dairy, consumers are discussing sustainability 13% more than last year. It’s no longer enough for plant-based dairy to be healthy, or simply “dairy-free”; increasingly, consumers expect the ingredients to also be ethically sourced for planetary health. We expect there to be new innovations in this space that allow for plant-based dairy to become more ubiquitous in the market without damaging effects on the market.
Finally, gourmet experiences
Plant-based dairy is no longer just a “second-place prize” for vegans or the lactose intolerance or a category just for health nuts; instead, it adds specific value to the dining experience in and of itself that’s accessible and desirable for a range of people. Gourmet applications of plant-based dairy are up 28% in consumer interest year-over-year, and consumers are 3x more likely to consider a dish with plant-based dairy to be indulgent than the average meal. That means that more people are actively seeking out gourmet meals that use plant-based dairy, and restaurants are more and more creating dishes that involve plant-based dairy ingredients.
We expect to see the rise of authentic and traditional dishes that use plant-based dairy instead of traditionally animal-based dairy ingredients. For example, the top trending cuisines for plant-based dairy are Asian, particularly Japanese. Japanese dishes that use plant-based dairy are up 42% YoY, largely because of the vegan ramen trend that utilizes ingredients like oat milk.
We’re anticipating seeing similar growth of “twists” on traditional dishes on other cuisines that feature dairy heavily, like French (which already is seeing a 19% growth in interest YoY in dishes with plant-based dairy) and Italian (+28% for the same).
Q: Any restaurant buzz happening with plant-based dairy?
A: For restaurant buzz (which we define as consumer conversations in restaurant settings), the plant-based dairy ingredients that are trending most in US restaurants today are:
- Hemp milk: up 21% YoY
- Macadamia nut milk: up 19% YoY
- Cashew ricotta: up 13% YoY
Interested in more? Tune into the Plant-Based Dairy Roundtable provided by Givaudan to hear from more industry experts. You’ll learn who is and isn’t consuming plant-based dairy products, where plant-based dairy is in the product life cycle and what trends will influence the next plant-based base.
Have more plant-based dairy questions? Leave them in the comments below.
Head of Content Strategy
Miriam Aniel is the Head of Content Strategy at Tastewise. She leads research efforts to uncover actionable insights about consumer behavior to encourage innovation and sustainability in the food industry. Miriam has published multiple reports used by some of the world’s largest food brands and cited by multiple publications. Prior to joining Tastewise in 2019, Miriam worked with non-profit organizations as a researcher and educator, promoting social change and education initiatives. She holds a BA from Columbia University and is an avid reader and lover of the outdoors.