Half of US Dairy Drinkers Also Buy Vegan Alternatives, Finds Survey

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Up to 50% of US dairy consumers also use vegan alternatives, according to new research conducted by Cargill. The corporation carried out a global survey in 13 countries to assess consumer preferences in regards to their dairy and dairy alternative purchases. The US data was derived from a survey population of 840 adults and was announced in March at the Natural Products Expo West trade show in Anaheim, Calif.

The Cargill survey focused on the dairy-style products that are most consumed by adults in the US. The consumption of plant-based yogurt, flavored milk, and ice cream, along with other nondairy alternatives, was compared with the consumption of dairy products.

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Of the 12% of participants who said they hardly ever, or never, buy dairy products, 35% said their primary reason was due to lactose intolerance – a condition that affects 75% of the world’s population. An additional 26% listed a sensitivity or allergy to dairy as their main reason for avoidance.

Furthermore, 24% of participants said they avoid added growth hormones in dairy milk, and another 24% said they wanted to reduce their consumption of saturated fat. Finally, 20% of respondents said they avoided dairy due to the knowledge of animal cruelty issues, and 7% listed a dislike for the taste.

This group of 105 dairy-adverse participants was also polled on their favorite nondairy alternatives. 80% said almond was their vegan go-to, closely followed by coconut, then soy, cashew, and rice-based sources.

Following rice, another 30% preferred fruit-based dairy substitutes, whereas 27% said they preferred grain-based nondairy milk. Beverages made from “other nuts” were voted in by 26% of the group. Finally, 12% said they favored pea-based nondairy milk.

With regard to what factors determine their choice between dairy products or nondairy alternatives, respondents claimed it is important for products to be transparent and feature clean-labels. For those with children, sugar content was a determining factor. Participants without children commented that the price could make or break a purchase.

With sales of plant-based foods on the rise, this kind of data can help businesses identify, and overcome, some of the remaining barriers that veg-curious consumers face. By listening to consumers, vegan companies can capitalize on consumer interests and accelerate the global market toward more plant-based products.