25 May 2018
Rabobank: Dare Not to Dairy – How the Industry Can Respond to the Rise of Dairy-Free
Dairy alternatives are on a rise as consumers are increasingly going dairy-free, particularly when it comes to fluid
‘milk’ used on things like cereal or in coffees. More recently, biotechnology has entered the arena, brewing milk
proteins through biofermentation. The time is right for the dairy sector to reflect on the success of alternative dairy
products and to consider applying those lessons to dairy, according to the latest RaboResearch global dairy report Dare Not to Dairy -- What the Rise of Dairy-Free Means for Dairy… and How the Industry Can Respond.
Dairy alternatives have competed in the dairy space for decades, but competition has intensified as dairy alternatives
broaden in types, styles, and categories of product. Global retail sales growth for dairy alternatives has soared at a
rate of 8 percent annually over the last ten years. With retail sales valued at USD 15.6bn, dairy-free ‘milk’
represented 12 percent of total fluid milk and alternative sales globally in 2017, according to Euromonitor.
Nutrition, price, and flavour tend to favour dairy, but changing consumer perceptions around health, lifestyle choices,
curiosity, and perceived sustainability are increasingly drawing more people to select ‘dairy-free’ products.
“Global demand for dairy is expected to grow by 2.5 percent for years to come, with demand for non-fluid categories
offsetting weak fluid milk sales,” says Tom Bailey, RaboResearch Senior Analyst – Dairy. “While it’s not essential to
diversify into dairy alternatives, it would be wise for the dairy industry to at least learn one thing from the success
of dairy alternatives, which may be putting the consumer first and trading in the old grass-to-glass model for glass-to-grass.”
The challenge for dairy lies mostly in fluid milk, where retail sales in western Europe (USD 18.6bn) and the US (USD
12.5bn) declined at an annual rate of 5 percent and 3 percent, respectively, in the five years to 2017, according to
The results over the last five years have favoured dairy players who have invested in milk alternatives across the
supply chain – from planting almond trees to buying brands. The investments in dairy alternatives have shown returns
above standalone dairy.