Summary of our market study

The global vegetable milk market has been exhibiting robust growth, with a projected average annual growth rate of 11.4%, potentially reaching $29.7 billion, up from $21.5 billion in 2020. The Asia Pacific region is poised to maintain its dominance in the market, partly due to the local availability of key raw materials such as soy and rice.

In France, the market has shown even stronger growth, with a 19.2% average annual growth rate, reflecting changing French consumption patterns towards more health-conscious and environmentally-friendly products. Almond and soy milk top sales in the French market, although almond milk has seen a decline in its share. Organic products continue to rise in importance, with organic plant milks making up approximately 80% of total sales in France.

Regulation changes in the EU have prohibited plant-based alternatives from using dairy terminology such as "milk," "cream," or "butter," unless falling under specific exceptions.

Major companies in this segment include Bjorg with revenues of 372 million euros, Alpro at 522 million euros, and traditional milk producers like Danone and Sodiaal with 25.3 billion euros and 5 billion euros in revenue, respectively.

Growing Appetite for Plant-Based Milk Alternatives in a Health-Conscious Market

The changing consumption habits in France have been a driving force in this market's surge, with an increased focus on organic and health food products and their wide availability across mainstream supermarkets and hypermarkets. Reflecting these shifts, products like almond and soy milk lead the sales figures; however, the trends are fluid with almond milk's market share seeming to wane in comparison to its dominance previously. The growing clout of alternative milk consumption positions it as a potent contender against traditional cow's milk, whose penetration rate in the French population exhibited a slight decrease from 97.3% to 96.5%. Even as the share of plant milk among alternative milks dipped slightly from 28% to 23%, the rise in the consumption rate from 38% to 51% speaks volumes about the market's potential.

France emerges not only as a significant consumer of plant-based milks but also as an important exporting country, with exports of almost 160 million products valued at around 92.1 million euros and a trade surplus that affirms its prowess. The insights from the French market unravel a vibrant community of consumers who regularly embrace alternative milks, with over half preferring to consume them at breakfast. France's consumers are increasingly informative about their choices, with many under the impression that plant milks offer similar nutrients to that of traditional milk - a concept that industry stakeholders could address for clearer consumer education. The growth of the market is anchored not just in the rising demand but also in the market structure and the unique positioning of manufacturers.

Key players like Bjorg and Alpro dominate the market, with a combined market share that approaches 80%, yet these giants face burgeoning competition from private labels which account for an impressive 29% of market sales. Overall, the French market for plant-based milks illustrates a concurrence of health concerns, environmental awareness, and shifting dietary patterns, spearheading an increased affinity for products.

Key Players Shaping the Plant-Based Milk Landscape

The plant-based milk market has seen impressive growth and diversification, driven by a handful of influential companies that have carved niches for themselves. These brands have not only redefined milk alternatives but have also set the stage for a larger shift in consumer preferences toward plant-based diets and sustainable lifestyle choices.

  • Bjorg: Pioneering Organic Plant Milks - Bjorg stands out as a leader in the plant milk sector, particularly within the European market. As an early entrant, having established its presence in 1970, Bjorg capitalized on the growing interest in health and environmental consciousness. Offering a range of organic plant milks, including innovative additions like calcium-fortified and sugar-free options, Bjorg has maintained a dominant position through a commitment to quality and nutritional value.

  • Alpro: Diverse Portfolio for Plant-Based Preferences - Alpro, another front-runner in this industry, boasts a sizeable share of the market with its varied offering that goes beyond plant milks. Known for its broad portfolio which includes plant-based yogurts and creams, Alpro serves consumers looking for diverse dairy alternatives. As part of Danone, following a significant acquisition, Alpro benefits from the larger entity's expansive distribution network and expertise in food innovation.

  • Soy: The Staple Source in Plant Milks - Soy milk, a subsector in the plant milk market, remains a staple due to its versatility and familiar taste profile. While not a standalone company, the category itself encapsulates a wide array of brands that offer soy-based milk alternatives for those with specific dietary preferences or lactose intolerance. These products often boast added vitamins and nutrients to compete with traditional dairy milk's nutritional offerings.

  • Danone: From Traditional to Transformative - While Danone is globally recognized for its traditional dairy products, the company has also made significant strides in plant-based milk alternatives, particularly with the acquisition of WhiteWave, which brought Alpro into its fold. With a robust R&D department and sustainability initiatives, Danone is repositioning itself as a modern food company that can cater to both conventional and alternative diet trends.

  • Sodiaal: Dairy Giant Embracing Plant Innovations - Sodiaal, while predominantly known for animal-based dairy products, has also forayed into the plant milk market. Through its brand Candia, Sodiaal has developed its own range of dairy alternatives, thus avoiding the need for acquisitions and instead harnessing its existing production capabilities to cater to the growing demand.
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Summary and extracts

1 Market overview

1.1 Introduction and market definition

Vegetable (or plant) milk is a drink that is visually very similar to traditional milk, but often has a different taste and texture. This is linked to its production method, which is mainly based on the processing of plants, including:

  • Oleaginous (almonds, hazelnuts...);
  • Pulses (soybean...);
  • Cereals (wheat, rice...).

There are several reasons for consuming vegetable milk: its impact on the health of consumers is limited, especially for people with lactose intolerance, and it fits perfectly into diets such as veganism.

Boosted by an ever-increasing number of consumers, the vegetable milk market has been experiencing particularly strong growth for the past ten years or so, although it remains concentrated in the hands of a few players (Bjorg, Alpro, Bonnaterre).

However, the latter must continue to adapt to consumer trends, which can put certain players in difficulty (like Lima), and to innovate in order to develop products to address smaller consumers who are more sensitive to the nutritional quality of the products they buy. Moreover, the product offering is continously becoming more saturated which makes it more difficult for players to position themselves in a spot where sales are predictable. 

List of charts presented in this market study

  • Distribution of the vegetable milk market by world region
  • Expected average annual growth rates for different types of plant milk
  • Global vegetable milk market
  • Évolution de la taille du marché du lait végétal
  • Répartition des ventes de lait végétal, par type
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Latest news

Danone opens a second plant for plant-based products in France - 12/02/2024
  • Danone inaugurates a new plant dedicated to the manufacture of dairy alternatives in France
  • Danone has completely converted its Villecomtal-sur-Arros yogurt plant in the Gers department into a unit dedicated to Alpro-brand plant-based beverages. 43 million euros of investment
  • Production, mainly of oat juice cartons, is 90% destined for Europe.
  • Danone now has four milk-alternative production units in Europe. Two in France, at Issenheim and Villecomtal in the Gers region, one in Sweden, at Lunnarp, and the fourth at Wevelgem in Belgium.
  • Vegetable-based products have become "a strategic focus" for the world's number one in ultra-fresh products.
  • Danone took the t turn in 2017 with the $12.5 billion acquisition of US group WhiteWave.
  • In France, ultra-fresh products are deeply rooted in diets.
  • Plant milk accounts for just 4% of the traditional dairy products market by volume and 7.4% by value.
  • The plant-based milk market is worth 165 million euros, according to FranceAgriMer.
  • More than 6 out of ten people in France in the 18-24 age bracket eat plant-based products several times a week, according to lDanone
  • Many dairy groups, including Triballat, Nestlé and Bel, have chosen to develop plant-based ranges.
  • Retail chains are present under their own brands (MDD).
Danone sells its US organic dairy business to Platinum Equity - 02/01/2024
  • Danone has signed an agreement to sell its US organic dairy business to Platinum Equity.
  • The sale concerns the Horizon Organic and Wallaby businesses.
  • By 2022, Horizon Organic and Wallaby represented around 3% of Danone's total sales.
Danone finds buyers for its two organic brands in the United States - 02/01/2024
  • Platinum Equity's portfolio of assets totals $47 billion.
  • The two brands Horizon Organic and Wallaby accounted for around 3% of Danone's sales in 2022, or $800 million.
  • Dairy products make up a large part of Danone's sales.
  • Danone has sold various parts of its business in different countries, including yoghurts in China and fresh dairy products in Brazil.
  • Danone recorded eight quarters of growth thanks to price increases, although volumes remained stable.
  • Danone succeeded in halting a steady decline in dairy sales that had lasted since 2015.
Danone, Antoine de Saint-Affrique's silent revolution - 26/09/2023
  • Investment of 50 million euros in medical nutrition plant in Opole, Poland.
  • Danone sales of 27.7 billion euros.
  • Sales growth from 2.5% to 3% on average per year (before Covid) to 7% to 8% by mid-2023.
  • Groupe Danone employs around 100,000 people.
  • Disposal of certain non-strategic activities (Vega, Horizon Organic and Wallaby in North America, Aqua d'Or waters in Denmark, etc.).
Danone: Efforts Rewarded - 26/07/2023
  • Danone's net income for the first half of fiscal 2023 jumped 48% to over €1 billion.
  • In Spain, Danone reduced the number of brands from 13 to 5.
  • Danone's operations in Russia were expropriated by the Kremlin in July 2023
  • The group had estimated losses linked to the departure from Russia at 1 billion euros.
  • 15% volume-driven growth for Mizone water in China.
  • Counter-performance: plant-based products in North America
Danone, collateral victim of Vladimir Putin's new hard line - 17/07/2023
  • Two major European groups, Danone and Carlsberg, were engaged in discussions to sell their Russian operations.
  • They were surprised by a Russian presidential decree that transferred most of their Russian assets to the state agency, Rosimushestvo
  • Danone had planned to sell 12 of its dairy and plant-based products plants in Russia, while retaining a plant dedicated to infant nutrition.
  • President Putin issued decrees earlier that tightened national control over Western assets sold in Russia, including eliminating foreign shareholders from buyers.

Companies quoted in this study

This study contains a complete overview of the companies in the market, with the latest figures and news for each company. :

Danone Groupe
Bjorg (Ecotone)
Nutrition et Santé -Soy
Alpro (Promavel)
Biolait
Oatly
Carrefour Bio

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