What’s in a name? Most consumers understand the difference between real milk and alternatives, says new survey

636749336095465820womandrinkingCROP.jpg

12 Oct 2018 --- A new survey exploring how consumers comprehend the difference between milk and non-dairy alternatives reveals that most people are actually not confused at all. The International Food Information Council (IFIC) Foundation shows a low level of consumer confusion over nomenclature and basic differences between the two. This comes at a time when the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is considering a proposal to provide greater clarity on the appropriate labeling of plant-based alternatives.

As the plant-based alternatives market continues to grow rapidly, more products are hitting the shelves with names like “soy milk,” “almond milk” and “vegan mozzarella cheese” – and the FDA wants to get a better handle on how consumers are interpreting and understanding these plant-based products compared to dairy products. 

According to the survey, about three-quarters of Americans understand that plant-based “milk” products do not actually contain cow’s milk (75 percent for soymilk and almond milk, 74 percent for coconut milk, 73 percent for rice milk and 72 percent for cashew milk). 

Fewer than 10 percent believe that any of those products contain cow’s milk, while the remainder says that they don’t know (20 percent for cashew milk and rice milk, 18 percent for coconut milk, and 16 percent for soymilk and almond milk).

Conversely, large majorities know that products labeled as “whole milk” (90 percent), “chocolate milk” (85 percent), “non-fat milk” (78 percent) and “skim milk” (74 percent) contain cow’s milk, although that number falls to 48 percent for “lactose-free milk.”

According to the survey, consumers expressed similar awareness about whether various products labeled as “milks” or “butters” contained cow’s milk or plant-based ingredients. Cow’s milk was identified as an ingredient in chocolate milk by 84 percent of respondents, in organic milk by 78 percent and in butter by 77 percent, with only 8 percent or less believing that any of them contains plant-based ingredients. For lactose-free milk, 62 percent believe it contains cow’s milk and 14 percent cite plant-based ingredients.

What are consumers buying? 
The survey also asked about consumers’ purchases in the past three months. Nearly half (45 percent) bought 2 percent milk, with 38 percent for whole milk, 30 percent for almond milk, 29 percent for chocolate milk, 19 percent for 1 percent milk, 16 percent for both skim milk and soymilk, and less than 10 percent for lactose-free milk or other nut- or grain-based milks.

Of those who buy products marketed as milks, 62 percent purchase solely dairy, while 38 percent purchase non-dairy. 

Groups who are more likely than others to buy non-dairy products include people in the western US (45 percent), consumers under 45 years old (43 percent), people of color (48 percent, compared to 32 percent of white people) and those with a college education (44 percent, compared to 30 percent of non-college graduates).

The survey results were taken from online interviews of 1,000 US adults, conducted in August.

Regulating labels
The FDA is calling for a “quick glance” on the label which makes sure the consumer knows what they are buying, which is part of a strategy to modernize standards of identity and the use of dairy names for plant-based substitutes. 

“The FDA has concerns that the labeling of some plant-based products may lead consumers to believe that those products have the same key nutritional attributes as dairy products, even though they can vary widely in their nutritional content,” FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb has said previously. 

“It is important that we better understand consumers' expectations of these plant-based products compared to dairy products.”

There is also a surge in demand for plant-based dairy alternatives in Europe where NPD growth continues despite regulatory constraints on marketing these types of products as milk. The European Court of Justice ruled last June that purely plant-based products cannot be marketed with names such as “milk,” “cream,” “butter,” “cheese” or “yogurt,” which are strictly reserved by EU law for animal products.

However, plant-based dairy alternatives are thriving in European markets, amid a surge in demand for vegetarian and vegan options. 

Innova Market Insights data shows that over the last five years, the number of new plant-based dairy alternative drinks launches reported in Europe has grown continuously, with a CAGR (2013-2017) of 19.5 percent. Between 2013 and 2017, soy continues to be the top ingredient for plant-based dairy alternative drinks, however, the market penetration is decreasing. At the same time, almonds and oats show strong growth over the years, with the CAGR (2013-2017) of 39 percent and 36 percent, respectively.

By Gaynor Selby

To contact our editorial team please email us at editorial@cnsmedia.com

Related Articles

Food Ingredients News

Weekly Roundup: Campden BRI launches “Brexit Hub,” Barry Callebaut places its first promissory note loan

15 Feb 2019 --- In the run-up to Brexit, Campden BRI has launched an information service to help the food industry deal with issues relating to the UK’s exit from the EU. In business news, Barry Callebaut placed its first “Schuldscheindarlehen,” a promissory note loan. SGS achieved accreditation by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) to certify foreign food suppliers under the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)’s Accredited Third-Party Certification Program of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). GoodMills Innovation launched two grain-based functional ingredients made from Tartary Buckwheat, which they will present at BIOFACH, Germany, this week.

Food Ingredients News

Kerry eyes foodservice growth: Social media sharing is challenging operators, says new VP

15 Feb 2019 --- Kerry is eyeing further growth opportunity in the foodservice space, with plant-based trends and social media sharing creating new potential for operators within this dynamic environment. “With our deep knowledge in food & beverages and innovation, foodservice is leading in essence and ahead of the curve in adopting trends. It is therefore a very important market for us to focus on,” Karl Buiks, VP of Foodservice, Marketing & Strategic Planning, Kerry Europe & Russia, tells FoodIngredientsFirst.

Food Ingredients News

Nestlé highlights sharpened plant-based focus as Starbucks range debuts

14 Feb 2019 --- Swiss giant Nestlé is exploring strategic options for the Herta charcuterie business including a potential sale, as the company reports its full-year results. As a further step in positioning its portfolio towards attractive high-growth categories, the company is looking to potentially divest its cold cuts and meat-based products, in favor of plant-based products to keep pace with current consumer trends. The company continues to pivot its businesses to changing market conditions by unveiling its first coffee lines under the Starbucks name which comes after Nestlé closed a US$7.15 billion licensing deal to market Starbucks Consumer Packaged Goods and Foodservice products globally.

Food Ingredients News

Ingredion’s new gum-based texturizers: Single hydrocolloids tap into sugar reduction and sensory trends

14 Feb 2019 --- Ingredion is strengthening its portfolio with the addition of single hydrocolloids which include gum acacia, cellulose gum and tara gum. The texturizers bring a greater breadth of ingredient functionality, including texture stability, emulsification and protein protection, according to the company. With Ingredion’s expertise in recipe formulation, the addition of gums seeks to aid manufacturers to market faster without compromising on mouthfeel.

Food Ingredients News

Snacking innovation: Almonds thrive amid calls for healthier options

13 Feb 2019 --- Consumer demand for better‐for‐you snack products is driving the growing global interest in almonds and almond ingredients, as product formulators strive to attract the increasingly health-conscious public. Consumers are pivoting towards simple, unprocessed, clean label foods and many are looking for healthier snacking options.

More Articles