two girls eating ice cream

Trends in Dairy and Dairy Alternatives

The expanding dairy market has grown to include plant-based dairy and, more recently, dairy made through cellular agriculture—promising something for everyone and more choices than ever before.

Trends in Dairy

Dairy is known for its strong health halo due to its high-quality protein and key vitamins and minerals such as calcium. In fact, more than half (61%) of global consumers say they turn to milk to boost their health.1 In looking at claims that appeal the most for milk, “high in vitamins/minerals” takes the lead, with 50% of consumers selecting this as a claim they most want from their ideal milk, followed by “promotes bone health” at 49% and “high in protein” at 46%.2

While dairy is well positioned on health, consumers indicate a preference for more flavor options in the category. Sixty-two percent of global consumers believe flavor innovation in milk could be improved, while 39% point to cheese and 37% to yogurt.3 This may come as no surprise considering three out of four global consumers reportedly like foods and beverages with new and unusual flavors.4 Dairy brands are beginning to respond, with new flavors being one of this year’s top trends in yogurt.

Trends in Dairy Alternatives

For dairy alternatives, innovation has been holding strong through the pandemic. From May 2020 through April 2021, plant-based milk launches accounted for 8% of total global dairy category launches and plant-based spoonable yogurts for 2%—the same as in the prior twelve months.5

girl eating yogurt

In recent years, dairy alternatives have been boosting their sustainability and health credentials. Ethical and environmental claims have been increasing steadily, reaching 73% of global new product launches of dairy alternatives between May 2020 and April 2021.6 55% of new launches were positioned as suitable for vegans,7 which can appeal to consumers on ethical, sustainability, or health fronts.

Health-focused claims are also on the rise, with two out of three new launches targeting consumers with allergies or intolerances.8 However, among nutrient and ingredient claims, fortification takes the lead, with 38% of global new dairy alternatives launched in the year to April 2021 claiming vitamin/mineral fortified.9 Added calcium has been steadily increasing over the past three years, reaching 30% of new launches in the year to April 2021.10

Next Gen Dairy: Cellular Agriculture

On the horizon is another innovation in the dairy category: dairy made through cellular agriculture. Also called precision fermentation, production of this next gen dairy relies on microorganisms to produce key dairy proteins and fats that are then blended together. Perfect Day (US), Better Day (UK), and Remilk (Israel) are the major players in this space although no products are on the market yet.

dad and daughter drinking milk

The goal is that, unlike plant-based milks, this method can create a product that works in all applications, like milk does. But in bypassing the cow, fewer natural resources such as land and water are needed, and greenhouse gas emissions are reduced. Besides sustainability benefits, some potential health advantages could include the ability to formulate cholesterol-free and lactose-free dairy products.

Keeping Up with Trends

There’s no doubt the dairy category offers something for every consumer—whether it’s nutrition, flavor, or sustainability. However, as brands well know, consumers are always looking for more and are excited by variety, taste adventure, and key health benefits.

Staying on top of trends is essential to making the products consumers want. As a dairy expert and leading supplier of dairy ingredients, Glanbia Nutritionals is poised to support your next product with functional dairy-based and plant-based proteins, custom premix solutions, and more. 

Learn more about our dairy and dairy alternative solutions to make delicious, nutritious products your consumers will love.


1. FMCG Gurus, Dairy Trends in 2021, June 2021.
2. Mintel, Dairy and Non-dairy Milk – US, October 2020.
3-4. FMCG Gurus, Dairy Trends in 2021, June 2021.
5-10. Mintel, Dairy alternatives: keep the innovation flowing, June 2021.

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