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Plant-based milks on the rise: A quarter of Britons are drinking them

A selection of plant based milks Image copyright Getty Images

Whether it's almond, soy or coconut it seems more people are ditching cow's milk for the plant-based stuff.

Almost a quarter of British people are now drinking non-dairy milks, according to market research firm Mintel, who spoke to 2,000 people.

The biggest users of non-dairy milk are 16-24 year olds - 33% are drinking them. 23% of Brits used plant-based milk alternatives in the three months to February 2019, up from just 19% in 2018.

But plant-based milks make up just 4% of the milk market, with 96% of milk sales in 2018 being for cow's milk.

"Concerns around health, ethics and the environment" are driving sales of plant-based milks, says Emma Clifford, who looks after food and drink research at Mintel.

Health was the reason why 37% of 16-24 year olds said they'd reduced how much cow's milk they've been drinking in the last 12 months.

The impact on the environment was also a concern among that group - with 36% saying dairy farming isn't good for the environment.

Fewer 16-24 year olds are buying cow's milk - down from 79% in 2018 to 73% in 2019, according to the research.

"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," Emma Clifford says.

She also thinks young people should know the "benefits" of using cow's milk, and dairy more widely, in terms of health.

Image copyright Lyle Boenke
Image caption Sam Friskey and Thomas Forster co-founded a vegan plant-based protein shake brand

"I went vegan initially for health purposes," says Sam Friskey, who co-founded plant-based protein shake brand Fit Deli.

He thinks the burnout and fatigue he used to suffer at work was largely because of his diet.

"Having made the shift I then began to understand about animal welfare and the planet."

Sam says there's "such an array" of alternative milks on offer that after trying them, "you realise you don't have to compromise taste, texture or nutritional values".

And he thinks plant-based milks can act as a "gateway" to full veganism - cutting out all animal products from your diet.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Less than three quarters of 16-24s now use standard cow's milk, but it only makes up 4% of the market

Despite the growth in the amount of people drinking plant-based milks, use in cooking and hot drinks remains limited.

Only 25% use alternative milks in cooking, compared to 42% of cow's milk drinkers.

When it comes to hot drinks there is a bigger difference - 42% of plant-based milk drinkers use them in hot drinks, compared to 82% who use cow's milk.

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