Plant-Based Milk Sales Are Leading to the Decline of Dairy, Says USDA Report
Consumers no longer worry about whether they “Got Milk?” and are now more obsessed with "Got Oat Milk?" or almond milk or other plant-based choices, according to a new report just released that shows the sales of traditional dairy are falling as the rise of plant-based milks has skyrocketed and shows no signs of abating.
In the last few years, plant-based milk companies have gained momentum, as new types continue to fight for shelf space in the market, offering vegan alternatives made of oats, almonds, hemp, peas, bananas, coconut, and cashews among others. The tastes are so real that consumers interested in avoiding the hormones and preservatives in dairy milk have their choice of texture, taste, thickness and whether they are environmentally friendly (such as oats) or more concerned with protein and fat content. A new study just linked dairy milk to higher incidents of breast cancer, and many consumers are avoiding the estrogens in cow's milk as part of adopting a more whole-food, plant-based diet.
Now. a new USDA study shined a light on the progress that’s been made: The report shows that the increasing sales of plant milk are directly affecting sales of cow’s milk, revealing that consumers have begun to step away from dairy messaging to adapt to a more sustainable, nutritious alternative.
Plant-Based Milk is Chipping Away at the Dairy Industry's Profits
The report was done by the Economic Research Service (ERS) in tandem with the USDA to determine the direct impact of plant-based milk on the milk market. From 2013 to 2017, the ERS followed the sales of dairy milk and plant milk to find the exact relationship between the two industries.
Although the cow milk industry's sales are still significantly higher than that of plant milk, the study concluded that plant milk's steady incline comes out as a one-to-one replacement for dairy milk in US households. Dairy milk declined at an average of 12 percent from .41 gallons per household to .36 gallons per household in 2017. This is matched by plant-based milk sales increasing at 36 percent from .028 gallon to .038 gallon per household. The numbers show a small but impactful victory for plant-based milk, chiseling at the dairy industry's hold on the market.
As Dairy Goes Down, Plant Milk Sales Shoot Up
It is estimated that every gallon of plant-based milk brought into a household replaces one gallon of cow milk, a one-to-one replacement rate. The report doesn’t claim that plant-based milk companies act as the main driver to this decline, but that doesn’t shorten its impact: The report shows that Americans have opened up to the possibility of plant-based alternatives in their diets. This openness to plant alternatives is a great sign for plant milk companies, and also reflects a greater industry trend with the climbing acceptance of plant-based diets and options.
Cow milk’s downfall has gained significant speed in the past few years, and now with more and more plant-based alternatives on the market, the myth of dairy as an essential source of calcium is more easily dismissed. In recent years, some cow milk companies have gone bankrupt or been cornered into changing business models to a more plant-based, sustainable structure. The next decade shows huge potential growth for plant-based products and a changing acceptance of the components of a nutritious diet, with plant-based milk spearheading the shift.
For the best tasting plant-based milks, see this taste test.