Europe is the largest coffee market in the world, accounting for 33% of worldwide coffee consumption. While demand is expected to remain steady, according to CBI predictions, recent years have witnessed the resurgence of at-home consumption.
Coffee shop closures during the COVID-19 pandemic encouraged many of us to premiumise our at-home coffee habits. From cold brews to latte art, coffee lovers began to bring the barista experience home.
At the same time, the sector has witnessed a surge in demand for plant-based dairy alternatives.
The plant-based dairy industry generated global retail value sales of over US$20 billion in 2021, of which almost USD18 billion comes from plant-based milk, according to figures from Euromonitor International.
And where your local coffee shop may not have been able to hand your soy latte or coconut milk cappuccino across the counter, grocery brands have stepped in to fill the void.
“During lockdown we noticed more consumers looked to replicate the coffee shop experience at home – a trend which has continued since. This has helped to elevate the growth of barista style plant-based milks with consumers opting for a frothy coffee at home,” observed Adele Ward, Abbot Kinney’s brand controller at Ecotone UK.
Competing with the functionality of dairy
This is being achieved by the development of products that aim to mimic the functionality and versatility of dairy. For instance Nestlé’s recently launch Wunda pea milk offers a product that promises ‘dense creamy bubbles’ perfect for frothy coffee. This versatility is an important selling-point for brands like Wunda.
“With plant-based diets growing in popularity more people are turning to alternative milk for their daily cereal, latte, desserts, baking or cooking but it’s very difficult to find one great plant-based milk alternative for every use,” explained Honza Dusanek, MD for food and dairy at Nestlé UK&I.
“Our aim with Wunda is to make plant-based milk alternarives an easier and more attractive choice for people who want milk that tastes closer to dairy but remains just as versatile."
Combatting concerns over taste compromise
Ecotone’s Abbot Kinney brand has just launched into the UK’s plant-based milk sector. Delivering a superior taste experience in the category as well as offering an organic alternative underpin the group’s approach. “The brand has just made its debut in the plant-based drinks category with three new variants: Mild, Barista and Chocolate. Rather than using one core ingredient, Abbot Kinney’s offers a point of difference in the category with a unique base blend of three organic ingredients: rice, soya and coconut,” Ward told FoodNavigator.
“Our reason for choosing these three plant ingredients is to offer the best possible taste profile for adding to tea and coffee, smoothies, cereal etc. We also always choose organic as we believe organic farming means no harmful pesticides and more sustainable farming practices that are better for biodiversity.”
Ward believes that the plant-based milk category still needs to overcome a common concern among consumers that they will need to compromise on taste. For Abbot Kinney and other brands hoping to extend the reach of plant-based milks, this represents both a challenge and an opportunity.
“We know that there is a perceived taste barrier when it comes to plant-based milks. For future innovations, there is a big opportunity to expand the plant-based milk offering with more flavours and varieties that will help to bring new consumers into the category. Now we’ve launched our core range of plant-based drinks, Abbot Kinney’s innovation pipeline is focused on targeting those consumers that want to make more conscious choices and are already curious about switching to plant-based dairy alternatives. We would look to do this by introducing more great tasting plant-based products that have the potential to appeal to a wider demographic.”