2017 ADPI/ABI Annual Conference

Dairy industry sees rise of plant-based milk as ‘serious threat’

There's an "anti animal protein" movement that will have a negative impact on the dairy industry if it doesn't innovate, the CEO of Select Milk said. ©iStock/RusN

Various dairy industry leaders gathered at the ADPI/ABI Annual Conference in Chicago last week to discuss the outlook for and challenges to the US dairy industry, including the rising presence of plant-based dairy alternatives. 

“I think the threat is very serious,” co-founder and CEO of Select Milk Producers, Mike McCloskey, said. “I think that many people have stolen the identity of milk over the years and we as an industry have sat back and not responded like we should have.”

Sharing a simpler point of view on the rising competition dairy faces from plant-based milk alternatives, Sheryl Meshke, co-president and CEO of the Associated Milk Producers Inc., said, “If you think of the word ‘milk’ as a brand, they stole our brand which really conveys the fact that it’s a powerful nutrient-packed product.”

Consumers seek value-added

The market share of plant-based dairy alternative products is approximately 10% the size of dairy milk with $1.9bn in sales in 2015 compared to $17.8bn of sales generated by fluid dairy milk, according to Mintel.

However, it is not that consumers are specifically rejecting dairy cow’s milk, the real issue lies within the lack of innovation from the dairy industry in past years, with the exception of Greek yogurt, McCloskey said.

“The consumer isn’t really looking for plant-based milk, the consumer is looking for some added value and we have that, but we have not innovated, pushed, and protected the wholesomeness and the nutritional value of milk like we should have,” McCloskey said.

Fund it like a brand

The way to push back against the rising order of plant-based milk alternatives is to make fluid milk a relevant part of the consumer’s day like it once was. The way to regain that consumer relevance is by brands sharing transparent messaging and sharing knowledge about the nutritional value of milk within brands, Meshke said.

“We need to be more relevant to the millennial consumer,” she said.

“We have found that they [millennials] want the story, they want the cause, they want to know more about everything, It’s been very rewarding that they want to work for a cooperative and a farm to form initiative.”

To achieve this sufficiently funding the “wholesomeness” and nutritional value of milk is the only way to compete against “very well-funded” plant-based NGOs, McCloskey explained.

“We need to fund it like we fund a brand,” McCloskey said. “You have to put in the money that it’s going to take to take it back.”

Related News

Elmhurst Milked has tapped into the dairy alternative space with the launch of four nut milk varieties, and says it will continue to innovate the category.

Elmhurst Dairy reinvents itself as dairy-alternative beverage brand Elmhurst Milked

Comments (13)

NM - 03 Jun 2017 | 10:46

Sign Of The Times

Dairy milk is fading. Face it. Join the plant based club! We have good cookies :)

03-Jun-2017 at 22:46 GMT

Matt - 18 May 2017 | 04:35


The way to get rid of an old system is to make a new system that makes the old one obsolete. Obviously plant based milk is making milk obsolete. So instead of spreading chosen "truthful" studies saying milk is healthy and rather than indoctrinating children to become mindless consumers change your business up a little bit a reap the future benefits.

18-May-2017 at 04:35 GMT

Submit a comment

Your comment has been saved

Post a comment

Please note that any information that you supply is protected by our Privacy and Cookie Policy. Access to all documents and request for further information are available to all users at no costs, In order to provide you with this free service, William Reed Business Media SAS does share your information with companies that have content on this site. When you access a document or request further information from this site, your information maybe shared with the owners of that document or information.