Milk is an edible biological liquid of a generally whitish colour, produced by the mammary glands of female mammals. Conversely, the vegetable milk is a drink produced from plants to replace animal milk: visually, vegetable milk is similar to traditional milk, while in taste and nutrition terms, vegetable milk sometimes differs greatly from traditional milk. In the European Union, trade names based on the word "milk" are prohibited when they refer to vegetable milks.
There are several types of vegetable milks that can be segmented as follows:
- The milks of "nuts" and/or oilseeds such as almond milk, groundnut milk, hazelnut milk or sunflower milk;
- The legume milks protein crops such as soya milk, pea milk or lupin milk;
- The cereal milks such as oat milk, wheat milk, barley milk or rye milk;
- The pseudocereal milk such as quinoa milk and buckwheat milk;
- The milks from other plants such as coconut milk, sesame milk or chestnut milk.
Vegetable milk is consumed for several reasons in France: the impact of milk on health (intolerance or allergy to milk, problems related to the consumption of animal protein), the choice of a vegan or vegetarian diet, ethics related to the opposition of animal exploitation, religion or for environmental or climatic reasons.
The French traditional milk market is divided between farmers, manufacturers and distributors, the latter, most often giants in the agri-food sector, having the strongest bargaining power. To gain market share, the milk giants have taken up the challenge of internationalisation, betting on the strong growth in demand in China (where the health scandals affecting the local sector have benefited French milk), but also on the vegetable milk like Danone, which intends to propose to new ranges of milk and vegetable yoghurts .
For some, avoiding dairy products has become a traditional way of life, with brands such as Alpro , Sojasun and Bjorg . The future should see milk substitutes attract an ever-increasing number of consumers who are turning away mainly from traditional cow's milk in favour of healthier, more vegetable-based milk.
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