While only 2% of Canadians claim to be vegan, more than half have made the switch from animal meat to plant-based meat products – so, it’s no surprise then that residents are also opting for plant-based alternatives to dairy products. New data from payments company Square shows the fastest-growing alternative to milk at coffee shops across Canada is oat milk—with an exponential growth in sales since the start of the year. Similar growth in sales of oat milk has been seen in the United States, as well.
Dairy vs. Plant-Based Alternatives – Dairy Allergies and Intolerance
Not to be dramatic, but the dairy world was nearly turned on its head when, during the 2018 Winter Olympics’ closing ceremonies, a commercial aired. The public service announcement featured six former Olympic stars, each touting their personal health benefits since eliminating cows’ milk from their diets. Aside from their stories, science has discovered a lot about dairy in recent years:
- Allergic reactions to cow’s milk could be more prevalent than those of peanuts, eggs, and shellfish - combined
- Dairy allergies mostly affect children, but also about 1 of every 13 adults
- According to the NIH, up to 65% of adults have experienced some level of dairy intolerance, which is known as the body’s inability to digest lactose, the sugar found in dairy products
Dairy vs. Plant-Based Alternatives – Water Consumption and Carbon Footprints
As much as we want to highlight plant-based milk products, it’s also important that we mention how creating dairy milk impacts the environment. In fact, consuming any products from animals is resource-intensive. Around the world, farming is responsible for using 70% of accessible freshwater. To put that into perspective, industry only uses about 20% and domestic use across the planet is only about 10%.
Plant-based milk products, on average, require much less water to produce and have less of a carbon footprint. Cup for cup, soy milk and almond milk has nearly half the footprint of cow’s milk.
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Now, Back to Those Coffee Shop Trends…
According to the data gleaned by Square, the current rankings of plant-based milk products in Canada’s coffee shops are as follows:
- Oat milk - 58%
- Almond milk - 37%
- Coconut milk - 3%
- Soy milk - 2%
- Almond milk - 81%
- Oat milk - 16%
- Coconut milk - 2%
- Soy milk - >1%
- Almond milk - 75%
- Soy milk - 25%
- Coconut milk - >1%
- Oat milk - >1%
From Square’s analysis of alternative milk product sales at coffee shops in the above cities, here are some key takeaways:
- Oat milk is Vancouver’s alternative milk of choice
- Almond milk is still the favorite of coffee shop connoisseurs in Toronto and Calgary
- Soy milk is a significant favorite for those in Calgary, who have yet to discover oat milk
Canadians’ appetites for alternative or plant-based milk products continues to grow – across all alternatives, demand has grown by 36% since January 2019. Almond milk is the top vote getter, but of all plant-based and alternative milk products, oat milk is by far the fastest-growing alternative – demand has risen 500% just since January of 2019. The majority of these oat milk sales originate in British Columbia and Ontario, specifically the cities of Vancouver and Toronto. As oat milk’s exponential rise illustrates, sales of almond milk have decreased, but only by 12%.
Time will tell if oat milk has what it takes to be the next big dairy-free milk product.
Source: Data is based off of hundreds of thousands of anonymized transactions from hundreds of coffee shops running their business with Square across Canada. Data set includes transactions from January–August 2019.