Do consumers have a plant-based vs. dairy milk preference?

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Do consumers have a plant-based vs. dairy milk preference?

01/29/2019
Nearly half – 48 percent – of Americans polled said they had purchased both dairy-based and plant-based milk in the past year.

Despite the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) calling for the term “milk” be removed from plant-based dairy products to avoid consumer confusion, customers seem to be doing just fine with distinguishing between plant-based and regular dairy, according to a survey of about 2,000 adults from market research firm Ipsos commissioned by Dairy Management Inc.

Nearly half – 48 percent – of Americans polled said they had purchased both dairy-based and plant-based milk in the past year. Though these purchases certainly could have been made by accident, the findings would seem to point towards the idea that a good chunk of consumers are not only actively able to choose between normal milk and plant-based milk, but they also sometimes like to choose both.

According to FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, the reason for the agency’s inquiry is that “consumers should be able to know at a quick glance what type of product they’re purchasing.”

In response, the Plant Based Food Association’s (PBFA) comments say this is already the case. “Companies selling dairy alternatives are using easy-to-understand, clear, descriptive and truthful language on labels. Our members and others in this category are using common English words that consumers understand: milk, cheese, yogurt and butter. To our members, and to consumers, these words represent functionality, form and taste, not necessarily the origin of the primary ingredient. They also are using qualifiers such as ‘non-dairy,’ ‘dairy-free,’ “plant-based,’ and/or ‘vegan’ to make the labels clear.”

In response to the FDA inquiry on dairy, an overwhelming majority of comments submitted support using the word milk on plant-based alternatives, according to the PBFA.

The PBFA also noted that plant-based foods are no longer a niche market, with growth of plant-based milks at 9 percent and all other dairy alternatives at 50 percent growth in a recent year period. This growing industry would be stifled should the FDA unfairly target plant-based foods, the PBFA said.

“We maintain that this entire exercise is a solution in search of a problem,” said Michele Simon, executive director of PBFA. “At a time when resources are scarce, our federal government should not be concerned with how ‘almond milk’ is labeled. Aren’t there higher priorities, such as a safety of our food supply, for FDA to worry about?”

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