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4 Key Reasons for the Surging Popularity of Plant-Based Milk
Exploring the key reasons behind its success
Have you noticed that plant-based milk products are taking over the dairy aisle at the grocery store? Almond milk, oat milk, and soy milk are just a few of the many options that are now available to us.
That’s great, I’m all for diversity.
The rise of plant-based milk products has taken the dairy industry by storm. In 2022, even though sales of plant-based meat in the US were underwhelming, the sales of plant-based milk in the US reached close to $2.3 billion. By 2030, the global plant-based milk industry is projected to be worth over $120 billion!
The growth of the plant-based milk industry can be attributed to several factors, including the increasing number of people following a vegan lifestyle, the rise in lactose intolerance, and the improved availability and variety of options. Additionally, the trend towards clean labelling and the high nutrient content of plant-based milk have also contributed to its growing popularity.
1. Health benefits
Plant-based milk alternatives are becoming a go-to option for those looking to make healthier choices. With fewer calories, fat, and cholesterol, and lactose-free, it’s easy to see why.
Studies show that compared to dairy milk, plant-based milk alternatives are lower in fat and calories. For instance, a cup of 2% dairy milk contains 12.3 grams of sugar while the same serving of unsweetened almond milk has only 0.4 grams. Almond milk has 75% fewer calories than whole milk — whole milk has 61 calories per 100 grams, while almond milk has only 15 calories per 100 grams.
Not only are these milk alternatives free from cholesterol and lactose, making them a perfect option for those with lactose intolerance or who are monitoring their cholesterol levels, but they are also packed with essential fatty acids like Omega 3 and Omega 6. These fatty acids play a crucial role in promoting a healthy diet, reducing inflammation, and positively impacting cholesterol, triglyceride, and blood pressure levels.
In addition, plant-based milk is also high in antioxidants, which help to reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases, cancer, atherosclerosis, and diabetes. The presence of isoflavones, could also provide a protective effect against cancer, cardiovascular disease, and osteoporosis.
2. Environmental sustainability
Lower water consumption
Dairy milk production consumes significantly more water than plant-based milk production. For instance, it takes 628 liters of water to produce one liter of dairy milk, whereas producing a liter of plant-based milks such as almond or oat milk requires only 371 and 297 liters of water, respectively.
The higher water usage in dairy milk production is due to factors such as watering the crops used to feed the cows, providing drinking water for the cows, and cleaning the facilities. Conversely, the production of plant-based milk like almonds and oat demands less water as the crops used to make them, almonds and oats, have a lower water requirement compared to the crops used to feed dairy cows like alfalfa and corn.
Compared to dairy milk, plant-based milk also has lower emissions. The production of dairy milk demands vast amounts of resources, such as feed, water, and energy, to keep a dairy herd, leading to high emissions from both the cows themselves through enteric fermentation and manure management, and from the fertilizers and pesticides used for feed crops.
Less land use
Dairy milk production requires 9 times more land than plant-based milk production. Some of the reasons include the space needed to raise the cows including pasture for grazing and facilities for housing and feeding the cows. In addition to the land required for the cows, dairy milk production also requires a significant amount of land for growing crops to feed the cows, including hay, corn, and soybeans.
The decrease in land utilization has a beneficial effect on the environment by safeguarding natural habitats and wildlife and lowering the greenhouse gas emissions resulting from deforestation.
3. Ethical considerations
Rising concerns about the welfare of dairy cows and the environmental impact of dairy farming are being voiced by consumers. The dairy industry’s reputation of treating cows simply as milk-producing units is increasingly being called into question, with automatic milking systems potentially increasing milk production by up to 12% and decreasing labour by 18%.
The rampant use of antibiotics and hormones in dairy farming not only poses a threat to the environment and human health but also causes significant harm to the cows. Over-milking can lead to udder health issues such as mastitis and lameness, while confining cows to cramped spaces deprives them of their natural behaviours and exacerbates their suffering.
These inhumane conditions only add to the already considerable pain and distress experienced by dairy cows.
4. Taste and variety
Here’s a list of some common plant-based milk varieties that you can find on the shelf of a supermarket:
That is diversity.
Plant-based milk has a wide range of uses, making it a versatile ingredient for cooking and baking. From sauces to smoothies and baked goods, it can easily replace dairy milk in any recipe without affecting the final result.
With different options available, each offering its own unique flavor, texture, and nutritional value, consumers have the ability to choose the perfect plant-based milk to match their personal preferences and needs.
The popularity of plant-based milk is a reflection of the growing desire for healthful, natural, and eco-friendly options. These products offer numerous advantages, such as lower fat, calories, and cholesterol, as well as being lactose-free, which is making them a preferred choice for many consumers.
Furthermore, their high nutritional content and reduced environmental footprint compared to dairy milk make plant-based options an attractive choice for those who prioritize ethics and sustainability in their food choices.
With advancements in flavour and texture and a growing appetite for vegan products, it is evident that the trend of plant-based milk is here to stay.