woman and child drinking milk

Plant-Based Products Offer Shelf-Stable Alternatives to Traditional Dairy

As COVID-19 supply chain disruptions continue to impact the food industry, food and beverage companies are seeking ways to manage the situation or possibly even come out ahead. One emerging opportunity may be in plant-based milks and other shelf-stable dairy alternatives.

COVID-19 Brings Shelf-Stable Center Aisle Back in Style 

According to Mintel, the COVID-19 situation has caused a resurgence in the popularity of shelf-stable foods and beverages, which is something brands may wish to use to their advantage.1 

In the plant-based dairy category, shelf-stable options include plant-based milks and creamers in aseptic cartons and bottles, as well as plant-based protein beverage mixes. The shelf-stability of these products also makes them perfect for e-commerce, a channel that’s grown tremendously during the COVID-19 crisis.

"Consumers are turning to center-of-the-store staples to stock their pantries during the COVID-19 pandemic, reconnecting them with categories [and packaging formats] that have struggled in recent years.” – Melanie Bartelme, Global Food & Drink Analyst at Mintel2

An Opportunity for Consumers to Explore Plant-Based Alternatives

When fresh, refrigerated dairy products are in short supply or when families are limiting their shopping trips due to COVID-19 concerns, shelf-stable dairy alternatives can fill the gap. 

Plant-based, shelf-stable products offer consumers nutritious options including high protein, low fat, and calcium-fortified products that can easily substitute for their preferred refrigerated milk. Since today’s plant-based milks are known for their creamy texture, great taste, and suitability in a variety of applications, consumers who try plant-based milks may even become repeat purchasers.

Grains in bowls

Plant-based milks can also deliver specific ingredients that consumers are seeking to include in their diets. For example, oats in oat milk are known for their heart-healthy beta-glucan fiber; additionally, flaxseed and chia are popular for their omega-3s. Though some consumers may initially reach for plant-based milks in response to a refrigerated milk shortage or a need for a non-refrigerated alternative, many may come to see them as part of a healthy diet, side by side with milk.

Woman in supermarket looking at the ingredients on a bottle

A Look at Traditional and Plant-Based Dairy Alternatives Post-COVID-19

Two key trends that Mintel foresees as emerging opportunities for the dairy industry are consumers’ interest in preventive health and their desire for affordable comfort foods, both driven by the effects of the pandemic.3 Since dairy is well-known as a healthy option due to its protein and calcium, food and beverage companies may wish to emphasize the nutrition benefits of both traditional dairy and plant-based alternatives in the days ahead. In addition, probiotic-rich spoonable and drinkable yogurts (both traditional and plant-based) provide an answer to consumers seeking possible immunity benefits. 

Indulgent dairy foods such as ice cream and cheese—that are priced affordably—are expected to become more important as consumers seek out comfort foods at a time when they may have less disposable income. Mintel suggests that blending dairy with plant-based ingredients may be a useful strategy to reduce production costs and provide consumers with the affordable indulgence they crave.

The Ingredients You Need to Succeed in Plant-Based Dairy Alternatives

Glanbia Nutritionals’ portfolio of dairy and plant-based ingredients provides nutritious options for shelf stable products ranging from protein beverages and plant-based milks to bars and powdered drink mixes.

We work directly with your team to provide safe, clean label nutritional ingredients and flavors that are easy to incorporate into a range of applications. Our ingredients are non-GMO, gluten-free, and kosher. 

Contact Glanbia Nutritionals to learn more.


References

1-2. Luttenberger, David. Mintel: Insight. COVID-19 Fuels Strategic Packaging Opportunities. May 25, 2020.
3. Roux, Caroline. Mintel: Report. Dairy in a Post-COVID-19 World. April 30, 2020.