It has become quite clear. People around the world are drinking less and less milk. Take the European Union as an example; studies (Canadian Dairy Information Centre, 2013) show that, while the tendency to consume less milk per capita is not universal throughout the union, it’s still an easily recognizable development in many countries. Similarly, in the U.S., milk sales have dropped in favor of non-dairy alternatives such as soy-, almond-, or coconut milk. Reports (Hughlett, 2014) show that consumers are questioning the ethics and health aspects behind milk drinking, which has led to a real struggle for the dairy industry. This doesn’t show that the market has diminished, but rather that consumers are switching to alternatives, which can be observed in many places around the world today.
Non-dairy products are everywhere nowadays, and takes many different forms; soy-, oat-, almond- and coconut based products are just a handful of what’s available on the market today. The popularity of these products is indisputable, but it raises the question – why now? This article aims to shed light on the trend and analyze its impact on society.
The first thing to notice is that non-dairy products are not a new phenomenon – they have been around for ages. At first, they were culturally attached to different societies. Soy milk, for example, has been a part of Chinese culture for 3,000 years. (Jack, 2015). In a capitalistic economy, a broader market has appeared. Companies have been targeting consumers who simply were unable to drink regular milk because of lactose intolerance for years, but lately, yet another customer need has arisen. Dairy alternatives are nowadays used for a variety of reasons. Be it ethical, environmental or just to “keep up” with the trend, more and more people are trying to find alternatives to regular milk.
This need didn’t spring out of nothing, of course. Rather, I argue that it originates from societal megatrends (TrendSetGo, 2012) such as, but not limited to, the environmental trend and ethical veganism. As these trends developed, so did a customer need of alternatives to dairy products. As facts about the considerate impact the dairy industry has on the environment (World Wildlife Fund, 2015) has sprung up (coupled with the rise in veganism), people are starting to question whether or not the old saying of ”milk is good for you” is actually true, and springs the question ”is milk good for the world?” as well.
We’ve then established that the popularity of non-dairy products is derived from these megatrends, but what does that tell us about the “non-dairy trend” itself? Well, for starters, that it cannot be labeled a megatrend. I would instead argue that it is to be considered a mesotrend (TrendSetGo, 2012), based on the fact that the popularity is not based around a specific product or brand, (in which case it would be a microtrend) but rather on a customer need that has appeared due to societal changes, which just happens to contain a popularity rise for a large number of brands and products.
Furthermore, I consider the trend to be somewhere in the growth phase of its lifecycle (Ponten, 2015). While this is hard to pinpoint, there are a few telling factors. If we were to look at the numbered few hardcore vegans and environmentalists as trendsetters, it would definitely put the trend beyond the turning point of the cycle. This also means that the trend watchers in this case would be the media, blogs, niche magazines and such. The vast majority of non-dairy consumers, however, are not hardcore vegans or environmentalists. They are “regular people”; regular people that have caught on to the trend and developed an interest in the associated questions.
While it’s too soon to currently fully assess the impact this trend might have on the world, it definitely has some potential to do so. If the popularity keeps rising, it is reasonable to imagine that it could change the way society as a whole sees the dairy industry. It is without doubt already pushing the industry to revise its views on ethics and sustainability.
I would like to leave you with a question:
With its origins in veganism and environmentalism, the trend is rooted in quite strong convictions and beliefs. When people who might not dedicated to the deeper cause tag along, (i.e. the “regular people”) do you guys think there is a risk of the trend loosing its cause and just simply turning into a meaningless hype? Or is all publicity good publicity, so to speak?
Canadian Dairy Information Center. (2013). Global Milk Consumption. Retrieved 2015-09-03, from
Hughlett, M. (2014). Fewer U.S. consumers drinking milk. Star Tribune. Retrieved 2015-09-02, from
Jack, S. (2015). Soy Story. Retrieved 2015-09-03, from http://www.eatingchina.com/articles/soystory.htm
Ponten, H. (2015). Lecture 2: Trends and Brands [PDF document]. Retrieved 2015-09-03, from
TrendSetGo. (2012). Trend Pyramids. Retrieved 2015-09-03, from http://trendsetgo.bekijknu.nl/pyramids/dafne-de-jong/pyramids/55193.html
World Wildlife Fund. (2015). Dairy ç Industries. Retrieved 2015-09-02, from