Actual growth in the free-from and vegan movement is ‘smaller than we are led to believe,’ with no Great British households found to be sticking exclusively to buying dairy free alternatives.
Presenting its latest figures, based on panel of 30,000 households across GB, at the recent Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers (RABDF) business and policy conference in Westminster, Kantar World Panel said shoppers were buying more dairy products as a whole.
Although standard liquid milk purchases were slightly down, sales of cheese and butter had held firm on the year, up 2.7 per cent and 2.8 per cent respectively.
Rachel Cacioppo of Kantar said: “There is a lot in the headlines about vegans and a lot of shelf space given by supermarkets to dairy free products, but we know that dairy is a fundamental staple part of consumers shopping baskets and diets.
“Our data shows that, at some point in the year, all households are making a dairy product purchase.”
Despite the standard liquid milk purchase downturn, consumers had continued to engage with products which could be similarly categorised, referred to by Ms Cacioppo as ‘value-added’ liquid milks in the form of filtered or those marketed as having additional health or other benefits.
Ms Cacioppo said: “Sales of products like this with a unique selling point really are booming and shoppers are increasingly engaging in these more added-value options, whereas standard fresh milk is driving that slight reduction in sales.”
In grasping what was driving sales trends, Ms Cacioppo also highlighted that dairy products were often consumed with others from different sectors.
She used the example of butter with bread, alongside milk with tea and pointed out that any downturn of sales in these areas had the potential to replicate for associated dairy products.
Bread was one example given, with Kantar figures showing that volumes bought were down by about 5 per cent or 65 million less packs bought over the last year, as well as tea bag sales, down about 4 per cent during the same period.
Ms Cacioppo also discussed some of the wider challenges and opportunities for the sector, from a consumer and retailer perspective.
She used the example of consumers increased appetite for protein, as well as the potential to capitalise on dairy products consumed outside the home.
She said: “Shoppers baskets contain 6 per cent more protein than five years ago, a demand that dairy products naturally appeals.
“Additionally, products like cold coffee and dairy drinks are well adapted to meet consumer needs around convenience, with 20 to 30 per cent of sales of these types of product taking place outside the home.
“There is a lot we can learn from shoppers and consumers behaviour, but inevitably a lot of this is also dictated by what is available in store and what retailers are doing to influence this.”