In the recent weeks, Beyond Meat has filed around 100 trademark applications in the US. These include Beyond Eggs, Beyond Crab, Beyond Tun’, Beyond Fish, Beyond Lamb, and most surprisingly, Beyond Milk. The trademark application stood out to their plant-based competition: the fact that such an alt meat giant would dip its toes into alt dairy meant there was a bigger picture that they too should be looking at.
The trademark application of Beyond Milk covers a wide array of products: “the categories of food products made of milk substitutes based on vegan substances; milk; milk products; milk based on or made of plants, nuts, seeds, oat, wheat or rice; milk products based on or made of plants, nuts, seeds, oat, wheat or rice; milk powders”, according to the document. But with so many alt dairy companies already striving in the market, was this really the right call from Beyond Meat?
The truth is, it absolutely was. According to the MarketsandMarkets report published in January 2021, “the dairy alternatives market is estimated to be valued at USD 22.6 billion in 2020 and is projected to reach USD 40.6 billion by 2026, recording a CAGR of 10.3 % in terms of value.” Alternative milk and dairy is very much here to stay.
The market is mostly driven by the ever-growing community of vegan, vegetarian and flexitarians all around the world. These populations themselves are growing as more people become aware of the process of farm-to-table, sustainability issues and overall health concerns.
In the MarketsandMarkets report, the Asia Pacific region showed the largest market share in the dairy alternatives market owing to the increasing consumer inclination towards vegan food. However, Europe is expected to be the fastest-growing market due to increasing demand for dairy alternatives. The report showed that “European consumers are health-conscious and often check for ingredients before making purchasing decisions. The rising health awareness among consumers along with environmental concerns and sustainability factors is driving the growth of the European dairy alternatives market.”
According to Label Insight, a Nielsen IQ company, alternative milk and dairy products is not just a trend that will fade over the next couple of years or with new generations: on the contrary. Cow milk sales are continually decreasing, with more people coming to terms with lactose-related health issues or simply discovering new flavors that satisfy them more.
The Label Insight data showed that:
- Milk alternative sales rose by 13.5% showing significant growth compared to cow milk sales which decreased by 1.2%
- Though consumers spent $10.88 billion on cow’s milk vs. $2.19 billion on milk alternatives, there was a 3.8% increase in alternative milk buying households, vs. a -2.3% decrease in cow’s milk buying households
- Oat milk sales increased by 117.9% indicating that consumers are interested in buying new, alternative forms of milk beyond cow and nut-based milks
- US American households spent an average of 6.1% more on milk alternatives in 2020 showing consumers have made the switch to non-dairy lifestyles
Christopher Bryant, PhD, of the University of Bath, said “Just as we have seen plant-based milk taking an increasing share of the milk market in recent years, we now see that consumers are ready for a new kind of animal-free dairy cheese product. Seeing the growing consumer groups of flexitarians and young people driving adoption of animal-free cheese is a big indicator that these products will appeal to consumers far beyond the niche markets of current vegan cheese”.
However, we all know that not everything goes as smoothly as we wish. Alt dairy products that are plant-based come with a huge hindrance and limitations. These alt-dairy products are commonly made from ingredients like soy, almond, and oat being the most popular. This is great for lactose-intolerant consumers, but what about those with soy and nut allergies? These alt milk products automatically become a “no-go” in their eyes, and thus, they can easily revert back to cow milk products.
Berlin-based Formo, –formerly known as LegenDairy Foods– is very much aware of this niche market and adapted to it, creating new products that vegan, flexitarians, and allergic consumers can enjoy, using precision fermentation to create animal-free milk proteins. Through this method, cow DNA is used to produce microorganisms that create proteins.
Raffael Wohlgensinger, Co-Founder & CEO at Formo, explained: “We’re hearing loud and clear that consumers are ready to embrace animal-free dairy products. There’s never been a better time to ask ourselves what we want from our food system and it’s now that politicians should support sustainable innovation like precision fermentation. Where the future of food is concerned, fast-moving environments like the US and Singapore are starting to become hubs of innovation, so it’s high time politicians here got on board with the potential of alternative proteins through proactive initiatives”.
A study by Bryant and Thomas confirms that consumers recognize this process as more ethical and sustainable, as conventional cheese production incurs the highest environmental footprint of all animal-based products after red meat.
The fact of the matter is that alt dairy is on the rise, and no prediction can see where or if it ends. Alternative dairy products are making their way into restaurants, beverages, grocery aisles and consumers’ hearts. With more milk allergies, nut allergies, lactose intolerances and communities that want to see a shift in how we consume animal products, the market is gaining momentum and witnessing a high demand.