The EU recently ruled that despite the fact that plant-based milks, like almond and cashew milk, are used just like regular milk, they can’t be called “milk.” The term “milk” is only allowed for mammal milk, and not coconut milk. Despite this, in an act of pure desperation it seems, dairy farmers are now demanding that plant-based milks are put in a completely different area of the store altogether.
Michael Oakes, dairy board chairman at the National Farmers Union, claims “They’re slap bang in the middle of the milk aisle, but they often don’t even need to be refrigerated. It’s frustrating for farmers as this kind of association means people have stopped noticing what the difference is.”
Despite polls showing that many consumers have odd ideas when it comes to food, such as thinking chocolate milk comes from brown cows, and 7% of consumers thinking milk comes from wheat (40% not knowing milk comes from a cow), it is a slap in the face of consumers to assume that they do not know that Almond Milk, for instance, comes from almonds.
Plant-based milk alternatives have been around for decades, with soy milk and coconut milk being by far the oldest. The dairy industry never seemed to have to issue with this milk alternative until evidence has come to light that dairy milk has been on the decline, and plant-based alternatives have been rising at a similar rate.
Segregating one milk from another is not feasible, with plant-milks that do not need to be refrigerated already being placed on a separate aisle that regular milk. There does not seem to be any real reason to separate these milks, apart from this crude idea that customers can’t tell the difference.
Many stores have been petitioned to have a dedicated vegan aisle, but the store representatives don’t see such an idea as viable. With the large variety and types of vegan food options available, putting them all together on one space just doesn’t seem practical. So that goes to question the idea of moving plant-based milk alternatives to a different aisle. Where would they put it? Also, since milk alternatives are used just like milk, why would they make a dedicated milk alternative section in a different part of the store? It seems like demanding that 100% orange juice is placed in a different section of the store than orange juice that contains no juice.
“The overwhelming majority of consumers find it easiest to negotiate the store by regular categories, they then seek out products within those sections to meet their specific dietary needs.” said a Foodstuffs (grocery store) representative.
Many dairy farmers are even getting rid of their cows and replacing it with almond farms as they see the steep decline in dairy sales. Maybe it is time for the dairy industry to realize that dairy is on the decline, and milk alternatives are here to stay.