There is an udder proliferation of new milk alternatives on the market – made from coconut, almonds, oats, soy, rice, hemp and cashew, or even potato, pea or hazelnut! Consumers choose a milk alternative for many different reasons, among them allergies and intolerances, vegan diets, healthier eating and environmental reasons.
In the UK, a quarter of adults now drink some non-dairy milks some of the time and it’s even more popular amongst younger people, with one-third of 16 to 23-year-olds opting for them. Alternative milks are advertised as being healthier and just as good as dairy milk in cooking and in hot drinks .
The lifespan of alternative milk depends largely on whether it is packaged in a long-life carton or as refrigerated milk. Milk alternatives found in the refrigerated section should stay fresh for between one to three weeks, whereas long-life alternatives can last for nine months or more. Once opened, most cartons advise the milk is consumed within five days.
Amid such a range of new products, how is a convenience store supposed to know which of these occasionally short shelf-life products will be popular with their customers? When is the best time to invest for your store? We looked at the sales of all alternative milks across the country to see which lines are already popular and where they sell most.
Average sales of milk alternatives are higher than pre-COVID levels and this year to date have remained around 8 units sold per store per week (in those stores that offer these lines). The 2020 sales spike may have been because consumers bought whatever milk they could during Covid in 2020 – and then some decided to stick with it. Equally, the lockdown gave people time to re-evaluate their lifestyle and purchasing alternative milk may have been one of those choices.
In 2020, Soya milk was the most popular alternative. In 2021, Oat milk overtook sales of Soya milk to gain the number 1 spot. This year Oat milk continues to dominate, and accounts for nearly half of all alternative milk sales.
For all the hype in the media, sales of alternative milk still remain low for most stores. Two brands dominate; Alpro with 74% of sales, and Oatly with 20% of sales.
Stores in London sell the most alternative milk. Average sales across the whole UK amount to just 181 units annually per store where alternative milk is sold – by comparison, real milk sells at around 125 units per week per store (all stores).