Half of Dairy Consumers in the U.S. Also Use Dairy Alternatives, New Research Out of Cargill Shows

Mar 30, 2018

Up to 50% of U.S. dairy consumers surveyed in a recent global study said they also consume dairy alternatives. This result comes from a global survey Cargill (Minneapolis) recently conducted in 13 countries and whose results the company presented at the Natural Products Expo West trade show in March. The U.S. results discussed here are based on a survey population of 840 adults.

Cargill focused on four of the most popular types of dairy/non-dairy products U.S. adults buy: yogurt, flavored milk, ice cream, and dairy alternatives. It asked users whether and how they consume the dairy products (defined as made from the milk of animals) versus how they consume non-dairy products (such as milk or ice cream made from plants like almonds, rice, etc.).

While the survey found a strong contingent of responders (67%) who said they regularly consume real dairy products, the survey also yielded this striking fact: up to 50% of respondents said they either consume both dairy- and dairy-alternative products, or that they prefer dairy alternatives but will still also consume real-dairy products. Only 12% of respondents said they are true “dairy avoiders.”

The survey yielded other insights. Of the 104 survey respondents who said they avoid or limit real-dairy consumption, 35% indicated that their number one reason for avoiding dairy products is lactose intolerance, followed by reasons such as “dairy sensitivity/allergy” (26%), “avoiding added growth hormones” (24%), and “to reduce my saturated fat consumption” (24%). Up to 20% said they avoid dairy for animal-rights/cruelty issues, while only 7% said they avoid dairy because they don’t like its taste. A full 21% said they had never tried dairy alternatives.

Respondents also ranked which dairy-alternative ingredients they like best. The survey asked the 105 respondents who said they consume dairy alternatives which alternative-dairy sources they have tried and liked. Almond took first place (80%), followed by coconut (59%), soy (50%), cashew (47%), rice (43%), fruit-based (30%), grain-based (27%), “other nuts” (26%), and pea (12%).

Finally, the survey asked respondents how they felt about a number of dairy and non-dairy issues. Some of the key takeaways included: 1) clean-label expectations are important in dairy, 2) more respondents said they seek dairy products for bone health than digestive health, 3) sugar content is important to those purchasing dairy products for children, and 4) barriers to entry for dairy alternatives include taste, the perception of not being as satisfying as full-dairy products, and higher price.