A QUARTER of British people now drink plant-based milk

Britain turns its back on the dairy industry as a QUARTER of people now drink plant-based milks

  • Alternative milks include those made from oats, nuts, soya and coconut
  • The shift has mainly been seen in young adults, with a third going plant-based 
  • Reasons are most often for health, ethic, or environmental reasons 

A quarter of British people now drink plant-based milk, a survey suggests.

Alternative milks, such as almond, oat, cashew, coconut and soya, are flying off the shelves compared to previous years.

Young adults are the most on board with what is often named ‘mylk’ and ‘alt-milk’, with a third of 16-24 year olds in favour of drinking it instead of cow’s milk.

Market experts said the dairy industry would need to up their game amid a rise in environmentally conscious shoppers.

They also reminded the public to be wary of missing out on key nutrients that milk and dairy provides if they make the switch to be ‘healthy’. 

Of those polled, 23 per cent had used plant-based milk in the three months, up from just 19 per cent in the same period in 2018 

Young adults are the most on board with what is often named ‘mylk’ and ‘alt-milk’, with a third of 16-24 year olds choosing it over milk 

According to market research firm Mintel, who spoke to 2,000 people, sales of alt-milk have surged 10 per cent over the past two years.

But alt-milk, including brands such as Alpro, Oatly, Rude Health and Koko Dairy Free, only make up four per cent of the milk market.

The report said 23 per cent of those polled had used plant-based milk in the three months leading to February this year, up six per cent from just 19 per cent in 2018. 

But plant based milk isn’t as well received by middle aged and older adults, with 92 per cent of over-45s choosing traditional pints of cow’s milk compared to 73 per cent of 16-24 year olds. 

Health was the reason why 37 per cent of young adults said they’d started consuming more plant-based milk in the past year. Some prefer that it’s lower in calories and fat.

But concerns about ethics and the environment also led to a drop in dairy sales.

Around 36 per cent of young adults said dairy farming isn’t good for the environment, which is why they had chosen to stop buying cow’s milk.

Emma Clifford, who looks after food and drink research at Mintel, said: ‘With volume sales of cow’s milk already on a downward trend, the fact that more young consumers are turning away from these products does not bode well for this segment’s prospects in the long-term.’

She said she thought the dairy industry needed to ‘rekindle interest in dairy products’.

Dairy farmers have faced a backlash in recent years as veganism is also steadily on the rise – there were 600,000 vegans in Britain in 2018, up from 150,000 in 2014, according to the Vegan Society.

Data from the Food Standards Agency (FSA) shows the number of dairy producers in England and Wales has fallen by 583 in just nine months to July 2019, mostly due to financial strain.

It was clear, however, that those polled by Mintel still see milk as the top choice for adding to hot drinks and cooking.

Ms Clifford advised young people to think about the ‘benefits’ of using cow’s milk, and dairy more widely, in terms of health.

Primarily, dairy is a form of calcium which is essential for bone strength and keeping the nerves and muscles working. It also plays a role in keeping the heart healthy.  


Parents are fearful their children aren’t receiving enough calcium, with one in five never drinking a glass of milk.

A nationwide survey of British parents found a third were worried their child was consuming calcium levels so low that their health was at risk. 

Over half (51 per cent) of children haven’t drunk a glass of milk in over six weeks, according to the survey of 1,500 parents by KidsHealth.org

And 32 per cent of children outright refuse milk unless it is poured over high sugar cereal, according to the findings.

One in five children also dislike eating cheese, another high source of calcium, with 12 per cent only eating if it’s on pizza, the study commissioned by YAZOO KiDS found.  

Health experts have warned parents that if their children are fussy eaters as toddlers, they are more likely to grow up eating junk food. 

Calcium is essential for building strong bones and keeping the nerves and muscles working. It also plays a role in keeping the heart healthy.  

The National Osteoporosis Society have said cutting dairy from the diet could be a ‘ticking time bomb’ for young people’s bone health.

The charity surveyed 2,000 adults in 2017, including 239 under the age of 25, and found a fifth of under-25s are reducing dairy in their diet.

They urged parents to talk to their children about their diet. 

Cutting out dairy can be healthy if enough calcium is consumed from other sources, such as nuts, seeds and fish. But many people are unaware these are also sources of calcium. 

Dairy is also a source of B12 vitamins, necessary for the body’s vital functions, including the production of red blood cells and breaking down food products.

Infants with low levels of vitamin B12 – found mainly in meat, dairy and eggs, perform worse at school, according to Uni Research in Bergen.

They 2017 study found children also struggled to complete puzzles, were less able to recognise letters and interpret other children’s feelings. 

Scientists warned mothers to not follow a vegan diet while they were pregnant, as the lack of vitamins while the baby is in the womb affects their development when they are being brought up.

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