Dairy-free success set to continue as vegans reach record-breaking numbers

Dairy-free success set to continue as vegans reach record-breaking numbers

Consumer demand for alternatives to dairy is at an all-time high, with a record-breaking number of vegans in the UK and with other consumers seeking healthier options.

  • A massive 168k people officially signed up to Veganuary in 2018 - compared to just 3,300 in 2014.
  • In April 2018, a survey by Compare The Market revealed that 3.5m British people were ‘identifying as vegan’. In 2016, the Vegan Society’s estimated there were just half a million vegans living in the UK.
  • Allegra World Coffee Portal’s Project Café UK 2018 reported 40% of industry leaders specified an increased demand for almond milk, while other non-dairy options featured in the top five responses.
  • Alpro, the market leader in plant-based options, confirmed consumer demand in the out-of-home (OOH) market was soaring: with penetration into OOH tripling in the last three years.

The UK’s largest coffee chain Costa, currently being purchased by drinks giant Coca-Cola (CBW, September 3), introduced coconut milk across its retail outlets as a dairy alternative earlier this year prompting the creation of its first specialty latte – the Coconut & Vanilla Latte.

“In a world of ever-changing dietary requirements and lifestyle choices, alternative milks are becoming increasingly popular,” says Gennaro Pelliccia, master of coffee at Costa. “We have offered soya at Costa Coffee for some years now, and back in January we introduced coconut to our dairy-free range in all our stores nationwide."

Alpro, the market leader with its ‘Alpro for Professionals’ range, has just added an oat variant to its professional range, which includes coconut, almond and soya.

“Consumer demand for plant-based options is continuing to soar in the out-of-home market, which points to a clear opportunity for coffee shop owners to capitalise on this trend,” says Vicky Upton, head of marketing at Alpro UK & Ireland.

She added that ‘wellness’ was higher on the agenda than ever before with more and more people looking for products that weren’t just good for them, but good for the planet.

“Plant-based food and drink is a key part of this because people are starting to recognise the tangible benefits these products can bring to the table, from both a health and environment point-of-view,” she says.

With rising consumer interest, there are also increasing benefits for coffee shops, which were growing and investing in their range of dairy alternatives:

  • Artisan offers almond, soya and oat milk to its customers, with the oat milk being the most popular. “It is easy for a shop to introduce it; the shelf life is great and it is not hard to add it to your offering,” said co-founder Edwin Harrison. “Most people are drinking it because they are lactose intolerant, for the health benefits or because they don’t want to consume too much milk.”
  • Baltzersen’s café in Harrogate, Yorkshire said it had been stocking plant-based milk options “pretty much forever”, but this year had “stepped up” its game” by adding coconut and oat milk to its selection, joining soya and almond.
  • Abokado is refreshing its breakfast menu next month to include coconut matcha lattes and matcha espressos, using the “highest grade matcha and Vita Coco coconut milk”.

Matthew Algie partnered with Minor Figures, to launch a ready-to-drink range, including cold brew black, mocha and latte – all made with oat milk (CBW, May 23). Minor Figures  is running a ‘Dairy Disloyalty Card’ until September 22, to encourage people to collect stamps from a number of coffee shops and order coffees with plant-based milk, to “celebrate World Plant Milk Day”.

Manufacturers too have help by creating better quality products for the coffee shop sector, with Alpro and Oatly both offering ‘Barista’ ranges, added Baltzersen. “These milks in particular seem to be more stable for steaming and pouring so we can now make better looking drinks as well as great tasting ones.”

Bonsoy, the Japanese soy, promotes its soya milk as ‘the barista’s choice’.

Almond-milk supplier Blue Diamond, which is experiencing significant sales growth, said the demand within the coffee market sector was growing, with sales of almond over-taking soya.

Peter Sullivan, Blue Diamond’s business development manager for Europe, said: “Oat and almond have been leading the way in alternatives for coffee and people are switching off soya, which previously was the only alternative.”

Almond, he added, was growing in popularity because of the taste, which offered a nuttiness to the coffee without overwhelming the coffee flavour.

Sullivan also agreed that manufacturers had improved product quality, making plant-based products as easy-to-use as dairy.

“Historically baristas have had issues with dairy alternatives and milk as it starts to separate once it gets hot,” he said. 

Alpro added that with demand for plant-based showing no sign of slowing down, there was an opportunity for coffee shops. “Investment in plant-based is a no brainer,” said Upton.

Allegra's Project Cafe UK 2018 report stated: "As the trend towards health and wellness intensifies, the use of full-fat milk and sugar is reduced. The consumption of alternative milks may increase as more operators provide these options across their portfolio."

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