No results

    Plant-based drinks: healthy, sustainable milk alternatives

    You need to accept cookies to use this functionality.
    Around the world, plant-based alternatives to dairy milk are becoming more and more popular.
    • Milk alternatives made from oats, almonds, or soy are especially popular among young adults.

    Just ten years ago, plant-based drinks were still a niche product found mostly in organic grocery stores. Today, they’ve made their way into every supermarket, without exception – and they’re filling the shelves with an increasingly colorful array of products.

    That is because they are in enormously high demand, especially among Millennials and Gen Zers. Today’s young adults make up a huge target group for plant-based drinks and have been a powerful force driving their success. And precisely that is why more and more companies are focusing on making plant-based drinks.

    According to Global Data, average growth rates for the milk and milk alternatives market as a whole will be around three percent each year between 2020 and 2025. Meanwhile, plant-based drinks are forecast to grow by seven percent annually, far faster than the market overall. Europe and North America are lending especially strong momentum to this vigorous trend. A simple comparison of the figures from 2020 with the estimates for 2025 shows dramatic growth in both regions: 21 percent in Europe and even 36 percent in North America. By contrast, dairy drinks are expected to grow by only four and one percent in these regions, respectively, in the same period.

    A paradigm shift is underway

    “Plant-based drinks will become an equal alternative to dairy in the medium term. Because one thing is clear: It won’t be possible to feed all of the world’s population with animal-based foods alone in the long term,” explains Stefan Höller, head of Product Management Processing Unit  at Krones.

    In an effort to slow climate change and at the same time ensure that people have access to clean drinking water and enough food, policymakers, companies, and private individuals are looking for root causes in many areas of life and business. Debates often quickly home in on livestock farming because it requires a great deal of water and land area and creates relatively high levels of greenhouse gas emissions. For that reason, many people are consciously switching to plant-based alternatives, whose production entails (sometimes significantly) lower water consumption.

    Image 27995
    Stefan Höller heads up Product Management for Processing Units at Krones.

    Lactose intolerance – disease or evolution?

    But not everyone is opting for plant-based drinks out of concern for the environment. Many people have no choice but to seek alternatives to milk for health reasons. Did you know that between 66 and 75 percent of adults worldwide (the exact number varies by source) cannot properly digest dairy? That’s because lactase production in the intestines either drops off substantially or stops altogether with age.

    But there are dramatic regional differences here: Europeans are said to have developed the ability to produce the enzyme lactase as adults, as part of their evolution. In Asia and Africa, on the other hand, it is quite common to be intolerant of cow’s milk. According to Euromonitor, some 85 percent of the populations there lack the enzyme and lactose intolerance is therefore considered entirely normal. As a result, plant-based alternatives have long been established in those markets, not only in milk-like products but also in flavored drinks, shakes, and yoghurt products.

    Image 27996
    There is already a huge market for plant-based drinks in Asia today, above all in China.


    High marks for nutritional content

    The trend on supermarket shelves has long been toward offering extensive selection. But when it comes to milk, there’s not much scope for variation besides fat content and perhaps an organic label. Plant-based drinks are a different story: While there is no question that almond, soy, and oat are the most popular types, the pallet of plant-based drinks is much, much wider than that. Rice, cashew, hazelnut, pea, coconut..., the possibilities seem endless. But plant-based drinks offer variety not only in terms of their raw materials but also in their nutrient profiles. They bring us full circle to more conscious nutrition. For example, soy beverages contain large amounts of phytonutrients and unsaturated fats, almond “mylk” is rich in fiber and vitamin E, and oat drinks deliver fiber and antioxidants. Many makers of these products also fortify them with calcium and B vitamins to achieve a micronutrient profile similar to cow’s milk.

    When it comes to frothing,  most milk alternatives can now hold their own against cow’s milk in terms of texture. And it’s no wonder, since there are so many possibilities for influencing the final consistency during the production process.

    Words matter

    Although you would most likely order a “cappuccino with almond milk” in a coffee shop, that wording isn’t quite correct. At least not in the EU. Under a 2013 EU regulation, milk-alternative products may not officially be labeled as “milk”. So, the correct name would be “almond beverage” or “almond drink.”

    Krones is focusing on oats

    The world of milk alternatives is highly diverse. Each one possesses certain properties and details that must be taken into due account for its production process. Krones has focused especially on the production of oat drinks and can offer three process variants. You can read more on the technical details and the differences between these in a subsequent article.

    You can easily send a request for a non-binding quotation in our 

    Request new machine