Milking the opportunity, this Nutrition Week: Mapping the future of alternative milk industry in India

September 07, 2021 1:51 PM

The sudden rise in demand for alternative milk is the latest twist in the saga of humanity’s relationship with animal milk.

milkAntibiotics being pumped into animals to increase and induce milk production, and milk being adulterated with caustic soda or white paint are making people more conscious about their milk choices. (Photo source: IE)

By Shrey Kumar,

India is the largest dairy producer in the world with the majority of people dependent on cow or buffalo milk. For fair reason, these animal milks have long been touted as a rich source of nourishment including calcium, protein, and other vital nutrients. However, off late, cow and buffalo milk have been facing tough competition.

The sudden rise in demand for alternative milk is the latest twist in the saga of humanity’s relationship with animal milk. In 2019, the milk industry witnessed a revolution as alternative milk products such as plant-based milk or camel or goat milk became a common part of the dairy dialect. With these developments, it brings us to an important question: can the alternative milk industry compete with the decade-old dairy industry?

Increasing popularity for alternative dairy products

According to a recent report, the Indian dairy alternative market stood at $20.9 million in 2018 and is projected to grow at a CAGR of 20.7% to reach $63.9 million by 2024. But, why are people ditching cow’s milk for alternative milk? Ostensibly, dairy milk consumption has been on the decline for decades, with each generation drinking less milk than its predecessor. However, health and sustainability are among the biggest drivers of changing consumer behavior in recent times.

Antibiotics being pumped into animals to increase and induce milk production, and milk being adulterated with caustic soda or white paint are making people more conscious about their milk choices. Products and experiences with both sustainability and health benefits will drive greater appeal as people move from careless to responsible consumption. Therefore, it provides a new opportunity for brands to make a powerful, purposeful, personal connection with consumers by addressing and communicating both at the same time.

Are alternative milk products a better option?

Almost 60% of our population being lactose intolerant, people are opting for an alternative yet healthier way to nourish themselves. Also, eliminating negatives such as cow milk allergy and lactose intolerance that comes with animal-based milk, non-dairy alternatives such as soy milk, almond milk, and oat milk are a rising trend and receiving increasing attention from health-conscious consumers, who looking for an organic and nutritionally rich lifestyle. Plant-based milk is produced from cereals, nuts, legumes, and other plants. These varieties offer unique health-promoting components.

Similarly, camel milk could be a great substitute for regular cow milk. It contains much higher levels of iron, vitamin C, and calcium as compared to cow milk. It contains proteins, which are similar to insulin and are good for managing diabetes. Camel milk is rich in Lactoferrin which prevents viral and bacterial infections on the back of its anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. As a natural pro-biotic, camel milk promotes a healthy gut and aids digestion. It may even help ease the symptoms of autism in children.

Owing to these health benefits, dairy alternatives are now being used as an everyday drink. Consumers are willing to spend more on a product that promises undeniable health benefits. Thus, the demand for these alternative milk is slated to increase in the coming years. In addition, different sales channels and the rising importance of internet retailing is adding impetus to the Indian dairy alternative market.

With a visible merger of health and sustainability based on the aforementioned trend, we see the uptake of dairy alternatives is gaining momentum. Alternative dairy products such as flavored camel milk powder and goat milk have found their way into Indian supermarkets, even though the concept is still niche and limited to the urban centres. And it’s no wonder, with such developments happening around, entrepreneurs and investors are eager to step in India’s new alternative dairy market.

(The author is Co-founder, Aadvik Foods. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of the Financial Express Online.)

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