Oatly Study: Cows’ Milk Consumption Declining in Germany for Health Reasons

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According to a new study by the German Society for Consumer Research (GKF), the consumption of cows’ milk in Germany is declining. However, study results attribute this less to a growing concern for the environment than to health considerations and animal welfare concerns.

The study, commissioned by Oatly, showed that about one third of the German population does not drink milk at all, or uses milk alternatives. Surprisingly, this figure clearly exceeds the percentage of lactose intolerant people (5-15% in Western Europe), as well as vegans (1.6%) and vegetarians (10%). There are also clear differences in consumption patterns between the generations: whilst only one in ten people over 60 drinks milk alternatives, one in five millenials does.

Growing scepticism about the health myths surrounding cows’ milk

32% of respondents were convinced that cows’ milk was unhealthy or at least did not have any positive health benefits for humans. According to the study results, there is a positive correlation between educational attainment and this growing scepticism: the higher the educational attainment of the respondents, the stronger their critical attitude towards cows’ milk. In view of the currently low proportion of exclusively vegan and vegetarian people in Germany, the study identifies the switch to milk alternatives as a simple first step towards a predominantly plant-based diet.

Lack of awareness of the environmental impact of cows’ milk consumption

On the other hand, very few people are aware of the environmental impact of the consumption of cows’ milk. Whereas about 73% of Germans are convinced that the manufacturing industries produce the most greenhouse gases, and 69% identify transport as the largest greenhouse gas producer, only 25% cite the meat industry and 18% the dairy industry in response to this question. Conversely, 37% of Germans still believe that milk production produces either no greenhouse gases at all or very little. In fact, meat and milk production contribute more to greenhouse gas emissions than the transport sector as a whole.

Currently, 23% of Germans consider sustainability to be an important criterion when buying food. According to Tobias Goj of Oatly Germany, this is a figure that requires considerable improvement: “In view of the current developments in the global climate, we must create an awareness of what we eat and what it means for our planet.”

The publication of the study results started at the beginning of April, at the same time as a new Oatly marketing campaign in Germany. The slogan “It’s like milk, but made for humans” aims to encourage people to adopt a more conscious and sustainable diet. “In our view, the change towards a plant-based diet, which has already been initiated, must be intensified in order to minimise our impact on the climate,” says Goj.