A new study by the University of Hohenheim has investigated the acceptance of plant-based milks in six EU countries, as figures reveal that European alt milk sales grew by 49% between 2020 and 2022.
Germany was found to have the highest turnover and market potential for milk alternatives, due to high levels of awareness about animal welfare, health, and the environment. Additionally, Germans attach less importance to social and cultural norms than study participants from other countries, making them more willing to try non-traditional foods.
On the other hand, countries such as France, Spain, and Italy have long traditions of consuming cheeses and other dairy products, and consumers from these countries are more sceptical about plant-based products. Many find the taste and mouthfeel of milk alternatives unconvincing and want to see improvements, along with more variety.
In Poland, many consumers believe that cow’s milk is healthy, and are averse to plant-based alternatives. Furthermore, Polish study participants say that milk alternatives are too expensive and do not taste appealing; a common criticism is that the products are too sweet.
The importance of information
Previous research has indicated that the plant-based milk market will see robust growth, driven largely by lactose intolerance and innovative new product launches. According to the University of Hohenheim study, consumers do not necessarily want plant-based products to exactly mimic their animal counterparts; instead, they are interested in milk alternatives that have good sensory properties in their own right.
Across all consumer groups in the study, curiosity was found to be a motivating factor when purchasing plant-based milks. To the researchers’ surprise, sociodemographic factors such as education level had no proven impact on the frequency of alt milk consumption; however, providing more information about the products was found to increase consumers’ willingness to buy them.
“Answers to questions like: What is the product made of? What is the production process like? Is it healthier? Is it more sustainable? How can I prepare it? Should be easy to find,” said researchers Dr. Beate Gebhardt and Rebecca Hansen from the University of Hohenheim.