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A report by Global Market Insights Inc. claims the dairy alternatives market to be worth USD 49 billion by 2028 end.  

The demand for dairy alternatives seems to be growing appreciably over the last few years, with no visible signs of deceleration whatsoever. Increasing consumption of plant-based milk is at the forefront of this growth, driven mainly by the growing intolerance to dairy products.

According to the statistics released by World Population Review for 2022, lactose intolerance is most common in Asian countries, particularly in East Asia, where nearly 70 percent to 100 percent of the population has lactose intolerance. In Northern and Central Europe, close to 5 percent of the population suffers from lactose intolerance.  

It would be imperative to note that it is not just vegetarians or vegans or lactose intolerant population consuming more dairy alternatives. There is a community of flexitarians who are shifting towards quality brands with ethical and nutritional credentials.  

As per a survey conducted by Morning Consult in March 2021, 82 percent of Americans who consume non-dairy milk do so because of the taste and flavor, while about 56 percent of Americans are motivated by growing environmental concerns.  

This has enabled many producers and retailers to invest in dairy alternatives to appeal to the rising number of consumers who deem it a more sustainable and healthy choice. In 2022, All G Foods, an Australian start-up, announced that it had secured USD 17.4 million to expand its portfolio into dairy alternatives and cater to the surging vegan population.  

Mentioned below is a brief snapshot of 3 dairy alternative trends to look out for in 2022 and beyond. 

  1. Growing health consciousness 

The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 prompted a huge chunk of the population to switch to healthier versions of food they had been consuming. Say, for example, people are now opting for alternatives that are enriched with vitamins and nutrients, are less heavy, low in calories, and nutritious, to help them fight diseases and improve immunity. Riding high on this trend, dairy alternatives have gained considerable traction.  

Non-dairy milk is known to have fewer calories, more water content, less fat (except for coconut-based milk), more vitamins and nutrients, and less protein (except soy) when compared to cow milk. In fact, research has depicted that the consumption of a cup of plant-based milk provides 8 grams of high-quality protein with all the required essential amino acids for proper growth and development in children.  

  1. Rise in oat product consumption 

Across the dairy alternatives market landscape, oats have retained the spotlight in recent years. Oat products, oat fiber, and functional oat flours possess a variety of attributes that make them an ideal choice in the formulation of dairy-free alternatives.

Oat milk is also comparatively lower in fat than traditional milk and much higher in fiber, making it far easier to digest. Oat milk beverages have more protein content than any other dairy alternatives like rice or almond milk. Additionally, they also help reduce cholesterol levels and regulate blood sugar.  

The growing prominence of oat products has urged beverage chains to leverage the trend and cater to a widespread dairy-free beverage consuming population. To illustrate, Starbucks in 2021 announced including a new portfolio of oat milk-based drinks to stores considering the elevating demand for dairy milk alternatives.  

  1. Asia Pacific: A leading investment ground for dairy alternatives industry  

Asia Pacific is projected to stand as a massive investment hub for dairy alternatives in the coming years. This can be credited to an increase in consumption and production of plant-based dairy-free products in the APAC economies. In addition, evolving dietary habits and lifestyle changes have increased the prevalence of obesity and diabetes in countries like China, India, and Japan.  

The prevalence of overweight and obesity in India may reach 30.5 percent and 9.5 percent among men and 27.4 percent and 13.9 percent among women respectively, by 2040 end. This will upscale the demand for diary-free food and beverages, enabling major companies to invest in the expanding field of plant-based dairy products.

Say for example, an Indian plant-based dairy firm- Alt Co. recently raised USD 1 million to expand its retail footprint and product portfolio across Asia, while continuing to advocate a ‘vegan way of life’ for Indian consumers.  

Carbon-neutral dairy farming to define the future of the dairy industry 

Not surprisingly, the dairy industry is one of the leading contributors to greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. According to reliable sources, 75 percent of the global dairy GHG emissions come from dairy farms in emerging countries.

In the EU alone, dairy accounts for just one-quarter of the carbon footprint. Also, cow milk causes nearly 3 times as much GHG emissions, 2-20 times as much freshwater, utilizes around 10 times as much land, and creates high levels of eutrophication. 

To this end, plant-based dairy alternatives would emerge as a viable solution. Among the different options available in dairy alternatives, soy products are expected to be a sustainable choice. Studies showcase that the GHG emissions associated with its production are relatively lower than dairy and almost equivalent to pea and almond milk.

Soybean also makes use of less than a tenth of the water almonds do. Increasing research and development studies such as these are expected to make way for more novel innovations in the dairy alternatives market in the years to come.  

Source Asia Food Journal 19th Aug 2022 by