Climate change concerns fuel record rise in sales of oat milk and other plant-based alternatives

Climate change and health concerns have helped fuel a record rise in sales of plant-based milks, according to new research.

Almost a quarter (23%) of adults believed plant-based milk is better for them than cow’s milk, while half (50%) of adults agree people’s milk choices make a difference to the environment, the report from Mintel found.

The pandemic has also influenced people's milk choices, with a quarter (26%) of adults saying the Covid outbreak made vegan or plant-based food and drink more appealing to them, rising to 38% of under-35s.

Millennials are driving the trend for non-dairy substitutes, with 44% of Brits aged 25-44 opting for plant-based milks over dairy.

Younger consumers are more likely to shun cow's milk, with to 84% of 16-24s opting for traditional milk compared to 96% of those aged 65+.

Oat milk has become the UK's favourite non-dairy substitute, with sales almost doubling between 2019-20. Brits spend £146 million on oat milk in 2020, up from £74 million in 2019. By contrast, consumers spent £105 million on almond milk in 2020 compared to £96 million in 2019,

Sales of vegan milks hit £394 million in 2020, a rise of 32% from 2019 when it was worth £298 million. Sales of cow’s milk reached £3.2 billion in 2020.

Oatly is the world's largest oat milk brand. Credit: AP

Amy Price, Senior Food and Drink Analyst, Mintel, said: “The plant-based trend continues to gain momentum in the UK, fuelled by environmental and health considerations. Almost a third of adults drink plant-based milk, evidence of its firmly mainstream status and appeal far beyond the vegan or vegetarian populations.

She continues: “While almost ninety percent of Brits use cow’s milk, usage continues to be lower amongst younger Brits than older age groups, as it faces intense competition from plant-based varieties.

"If they retain their plant-based milk habit as they age, this stands to drive usage across the population upwards over time, fuelling long-term growth for the plant-based milk category.”