Plant-based milk continues to grow in popularity, with oat milk slowly edging closer to being the preferred dairy-based milk substitute after soy and almond milk dominated the market’s rise five years ago.
Data shows plant-based milk is on track to capture half of all Australian café drink sales and New Zealand is not far off the mark, with urban café owners saying on average one-in-four Kiwi coffee drinkers request oat milk when ordering flat whites due to environmental concerns.
Climate change, increasing deforestation, lactose intolerance, gastric problems, indigestion and animal cruelty has led to a push to the vegan or plant-based food products, as people across the globe become more conscious of their food choices.
“Probably a year or so ago – halfway through the year I think – oat milk just started really taking over,” a barista said.
While oat milk has only been on NZ’s supermarket shelves for a few years, according to NZ Functional Foods, oat milk sales here grew by 230% in FMCG in 2021. This could in part be due to its milder nutty flavour compared to soy and almond-based milks, as well as its naturally occurring sugars and a creamy, almost dairy milk-like, consistency.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) reports that plant-based milk, yoghurt, cheese and ice cream offerings are also a rapidly growing segment of the US consumer market, while animal-free dairy and cell-cultured dairy are attracting increasing interest and investment.
While still finding roots in the Middle East and Africa, milk alternatives have grown in popularity in Asia-Pacific countries.
The plant-based milk industry in the APAC region has traditionally been led by soy milk and almond milk, but companies are increasingly using unique plant-based sources to produce dairy alternatives. One example is Snappea, a Malaysian brand of milk made out of peas, which supposedly contains more protein and is more sustainable compared to dairy milk.
NZ has also seen an increase in oat milk-based businesses, with startups like VegiFare, an oat-based chocolate milk created by Ashburton business entrepreneur Daniel Williams and Mammas Milk Bar, a nutritional solution created by Auckland mum Wendy Poon, to help women struggling with lactation.
It’s estimated the global plant-based milk market will be worth US$26 billion in 2026, while the global dairy market is projected to grow to about US$1128 billion in the same period.