Alt Milk and Alt Protein Drive Plant-Based Food and Beverage Innovation

Sandwich bun with the words Plant Based spelled out as the protein for article about alt milk and alt protein

Plant-Based Food and Beverage Surge Driven By Growing Demand

Plant-based food and beverage innovations abound with a dizzying amount of new product launches across a variety of categories including non-dairy milk applications and meatless proteins. According to Triton Market Research, the global plant-based food and beverage market size was valued at $42,186.43 million in 2020 and is expected to reach $81,538.73 million by 2028, with an 8.71% CAGR.a Innova’s 2020 Consumer Survey revealed that the top four reasons respondents consider plant-based alternatives are: health, variety, sustainability, and taste.b

Flexitarian Lifestyles Trending

Vegan, vegetarian, and flexitarian lifestyles are driving the growth of plant-based products. In Packaged Facts August 2020 National Online Consumer Survey, consumers identified which diet or eating philosophy they are currently primarily following.c The results showed:

  • 53% of consumers are primarily omnivorous
  • 36% of consumers identify themselves as flexitarian because they eat meat or poultry and regularly mix up their diet with vegan or vegetarian meals
  • 3% of consumers follow a vegan diet
  • 3% of consumers are pescatarian
  • 5% of consumers are vegetarian

Comax Flavors’ primary research of 1,000 U.S. respondents who consume non-dairy products including non-dairy milk, non-dairy creamer, non-dairy yogurt, and non-dairy frozen dessert, reinforced this data.d Respondents who consume non-dairy products describe themselves as:

  • 31% Flexitarian
  • 8% Vegetarian
  • 5% Pescatarian
  • 4% Vegan
  • 6% Other
  • 46% None of these

Furthermore, respondents consume non-dairy products for an array of reasons, with health and wellness being the #1 reason:

  • Health and Wellness 78%
  • Dietary Restrictions/Allergies 28%
  • Environmental Sustainability 24%
  • Animal Welfare 24%
  • Religious Reasons 6%

Got Milk?

According to Nielsen, U.S. sales for dairy alternatives grew 15% to nearly $2.2 billion in the 52 weeks ending May 1, 2021. Almond milk held the largest share with 68%, followed by Oat milk with a 14% share, and soy milk came in third with an 8% share. Coconut milk and rice milk each had less than a 4% share.e As seen in ice cream trends, plant-based dairy alternatives are trending.

The “ingredient source” is the most important attribute driving purchase intent for non-dairy milk, with half of the respondents citing it, according to Comax’s research. Respondents consume an assortment of non-dairy milk products made from many different ingredients:

  • 86% of non-dairy milk respondents drink “Almond” milk
  • 41% consume “Soy” milk
  • 38% prefer “Coconut” milk
  • 23% of respondents drink “Cashew” milk
  • 10% drink “Rice” milk

“Flavor” is the second most important attribute non-dairy milk respondents base their purchases on.

  • Vanilla is the number one flavor consumed by almost two-thirds (62%) of respondents
  • 22% consume Chocolate non-dairy milk
  • A third of respondents drink Unsweetened non-dairy milk

When respondents were asked, “What do you wish your non-dairy product had that it currently does not have?” a sizable majority of respondents wished non-dairy milk products had a “better texture” and were “creamier” regardless of the application.

Plant-based milk alternatives lack the fat from animal protein, which leaves consumers craving the creaminess of dairy-based milks. Comax Flavors offers a proprietary technology that is engineered to give the mouthfeel consumers expect. Our R&D team partners with our customers to create dairy mouthfeel flavors customized to meet your specific plant-based needs.

Comax creates innovative and indulgent flavors formulated for plant-based dairy flavors such as Salted Caramel S’mores made for Cashew Milk, Sweet Potato Maple Cinnamon made for Almond Milk, and Turmeric Golden Milk made for Coconut Milk. For more plant-based dairy flavors, reach out to us here.

Where’s the Beef?

As consumers incorporate more plant-based products into their diets, plant-based meat, pork, chicken, and fish alternatives are a hotbed of innovation. According to the IMARC Group, the global plant-based meat market reached $8.6 billion in 2020 and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 17% between 2021-2026.f Sales of plant-based bacon are up 25% and the plant-based bacon market doubled in 2020 to reach $267 million, according to Spins.g Fact.Mr expects the global plant-based fish market to reach $1.3 billion by 2031 with a 28% CAGR from 2021 to 2031.h

Consumers’ interest is not waning. In June, Label Insight analyzed searches for alt-meat products across major retailers and found that there were 44,000 Amazon searches for meat alternatives. The most common search terms in the category were “vegan meat,” “vegan chicken,” “vegan burgers,” and “vegan fish.” i Grubhub’s mid-year report for 2021 showed diners continue to eat plant-based dishes. Vegan orders have risen by 17%, plant-based burgers by 28%, and general vegetarian orders by 55%.j

Companies are engineering plant-based protein alternatives formulated with a variety of ingredients such as beans, fruits, grains, heme, mushrooms, mycelium, pea protein, seaweed, soy, textured vegetable protein, and vegetables. Alt protein is garnering so much attention, that companies such as UK-Based THIS are searching for a “Vegan Meat Sommelier” to work with R&D on new product development involving vegan meat tastings for two months.

Comax offers an assortment of savory flavors that are vegan and kosher, which can be used in a range of plant-based applications such as meatless entrees, snacks, crackers, seasoning, dressings, and marinades. Comax Flavors is your go-to source for plant-based flavors such as Street Tacos, Fried Chicken, BBQ Chicken, Spicy BBQ Chicken, and Asian Stir Fry. Maple Bacon Ranch, Honey Sriracha, and Lemon Truffle are great flavors for plant-based snacks. Order a sample here or get in touch with us here.

Regardless of the application, plant-based food and beverages are thriving. From non-dairy milk alternatives to meatless protein, consumers want flavorful products that mimic the taste and texture of animal-based products. Comax’s plant-based flavors run the gamut from sweet to savory to suit your R&D formula needs. Reach out to us.





d N=1,000, Comax Non-Dairy Milk Products July 2017; Non-Dairy Milk N=250, Non-Dairy Creamer N=250, Non-Dairy Yogurt N=250, and Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert N=250