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Plant-Based Milk Market Trends: Discover Favorite Dairy Alternatives in Europe

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Without lactose, gluten, or cholesterol; source of vitamins and minerals … The advantages of plant-based milk are no longer to be proven today.

  • An EU-funded project reported a 49% growth in European consumption of plant-based foods over the past two years. 
  • Lactose intolerance affects approximately 68% of the world’s population.
  • Potato milk, the new trend of 2022?

Many purchasers are seduced by their wide range of tastes, consumed regularly. Nowadays, it is crucial for a global brand to question consumers’ aspirations regarding those milk.

What are Europe’s most desired properties and tastes concerning plant-based milk? What are today’s and tomorrow’s plant-based milk?

Using search listening to explore consumer preferences regarding plant-based milk

These days, a glance at the shelves of alternative dairy products makes you feel distraught! This collision with the embarrassment of choice provokes pertinent queries. Any questions a consumer has about a product usually begin with a search on Google to gather information and compare to prepare his purchase.

We are evolving in a society where consumption is in constant progression. It is becoming increasingly difficult for brands to stand out, for retailers to select the “correct” products to offer and for consumers to select them.

Understanding and analyzing customer behavior and expectations become straightforward and accessible when using search listening, which refers to the process of gathering search engine queries at scale.

Is almond milk search for? 

How do you collect search query data to analyze plant-based milk trends? 

The Trajaan platform allows you to do market research by collecting hundreds of consumer queries, processing data from Amazon, Google, and your search bar.

As part of this study, we mapped 27 plant-based milk and collected Google search queries in 3 European markets over the last three yearsSpainItaly, and France.

All these expressions are then segmented to represent all categories and products in the plant-based milk market.

Visualizing trending products, emerging categories by season/month, countries (or regions, or even cities !) with the highest affinity for a product, and small, high-growth volumes that could become tomorrow’s trending product is now possible through this segmentation.

In our case, we focused on the consumers’ intention and perception of plant milk by searching for information about benefits (sugar or gluten-free, organic, etc.), risks (calories, contraindications), prices, or DIY recipes.

More than 340+ queries have been mapped, cleaned, and clustered in 3 languages.

Understanding of needs and emerging categories, as well as awareness and best product combinations by territories, will allow you to adapt your marketing efforts.

Don’t wait any longer and dive into the consumer psyche!

Almond, coconut, and soy milk: the three most popular varieties of plant-based milk.

Since 2019, Italian, Spanish and French consumers have made more than 8 million searches on Google about our 27 plant-based milk. This represents roughly more than 6.500 searches per day!

In the 3 European markets (France, Italy, and Spain), almond milk, with a total of 2.4 million searches, takes the lead, followed closely by coconut milk (2.1 million) and soy milk (1.5 million). These three types of milk account for more than 70% of consumer searches! However, the share of search fell by 4 pts since the pre-Covid period (67.5% in S1 2022 vs. 71.5% in S1 2019) suggesting a shift to other plant-based milk.

When focusing on trends over the last 42 months in the 3 selected countries, two elements stand out:

  • The first period of Covid-19 marks a significant peak in the number of searches, especially for coconut and almond milk.

This could be related to the fact that during the first Covid-19 lockdown, two food product categories profited from a significant increase in purchase dynamicslong-life products (dry grocery, frozen meals) and basic products, which benefited dairy products like milk. Indeed, at that period people had a great fear: having to do without products that were essential for them!

Also, remember that during the Covid-19 pandemic, consumers were more concerned about their health. As a result, many individuals were enticed not only by sports but also by a healthy diet, turning to products such as plant-based milk.

  • Every year in December, search volume drop. Plant-based milk is definitely not the drink of choice for consumers over the Christmas season!

Local trends: Expectations differ depending on the country.

Searches are geo-targeted, which means they are a powerful source of insights to detect local specificities and especially local opportunities for your marketing strategy.

By focusing on how they search for plant-based milk (description, semantic association), search listening is a powerful tool to unveil true expectations.

Aside from the health benefits and calorie content of plant milk, French, Spanish, and Italian consumers have distinct requirement!

Associating weight loss and plant-based milk is not relevant for a French consumer, but is very relevant for a Spanish consumer. In the same way, the Italians will be more interested in “sugar-free” products, while the French will be more sensitive to “organic” labelled plant-based milk.

This is consistent with the fact that the first milk sought by French consumers is coconut milk, known to be the most greedy, caloric, and sweet. Conversely, almond milk, the first milk sought by the Spanish and Italians, is very low in calories and easily digestible.

Italian and Spanish consumers are more and more careful about contraindications. Related queries increased by 67% in Italy over the last year. In France, contraindications are 30x less searched than in Italy or Spain. For once the French are the ones who see the bright side of things.

Moreover, homemade plant-based milk is strongly searched for in France (and increasing by 24% vs. last year) and Italy (and decreasing by 15%) but not in Spain.

The surprising emergence of new trends

Potato milk, on its way to becoming the new almond milk?

As always, trends are evolving. The plant-based milk industry is driven by change. And the choices are many: oat milk, coconut milk, hemp milk, macadamia milk, quinoa milk, etc. The list goes on and on. Today, another one is positioning itself to be among the best plant-based milk.

The same country that brought us oat milk is now offering us potato milk. This country is Sweden, and the manufacturers of potato milk claim that their product is considerably more environmentally friendly. Indeed, potato milk is a healthful and environmentally friendly alternative to both cow’s milk and plant-based milk. Potatoes require less maintenance and are thus more ecologically friendly than soy or oats, which require a lot of water to grow.

While research on potato milk was almost non-existent until recently, since the beginning of 2022, it has enjoyed meteoric growth in research volumesItaly represents about 42% of the total research volumes of potato milk, against about 39% for France and 19% for Spain.

In terms of sustainabilitypotato milk is likely to make a significant difference. In terms of land usage efficiency, the crop is twice as efficient as oats, requires less water, and yields more than most plants. The new drink has a long way to go before it can compete with other plant-based milk, but it has a chance to become the next natural food craze.

Although this is less significant growth, search volumes for pistachio milk have also increased since January 2019. Pistachio milk is a vegetable drink obtained by mixing previously softened pistachios with water. The pistachio milk’s expansion could be linked to the “Pistachio Latte” launched by the giant Starbuck two years ago in the US and Canada. According to our data, the search volume for pistachio milk has increased by 118.52 percent in the last six months.

Those new emergent trends could be the next giant of tomorrow!

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