Nearly half of Americans who buy cow’s milk also buy plant-based milk, according to a new survey commissioned by Dairy Management, Inc. and conducted by global market research firm IPSOS. Of the 2,006 adults surveyed, 48 percent reported buying both dairy- and plant-based milk over the past six months, and fewer than a quarter (23 percent) of respondents erroneously believed that plant-based milk contains more nutrients than dairy milk.
Nevertheless, a whopping 62 percent of those who bought only plant-based milk (and 35 percent of total respondents) indicated their belief that plant-based milk provides higher or equal protein quality to dairy, a response that surprised nutritionist Linn Steward. She indicated to FoodNavigator-USA, however, that the "disconnect" was "understandable," given common marketing strategies for milk.
“Milk is marketed on a nutrient specific basis to provide calcium," she told the outlet. "Nuts are included in the MyPlate protein group and cow’s milk is not. So let’s say there’s confusion on both sides.”
The survey was conducted as the FDA considers how to proceed with the labeling of plant-based dairy alternatives, like milk, cheese, and yogurt. This fall, the FDA issued a Request for Information to ascertain consumers’ understanding of these terms when used to describe dairy alternatives in order to ensure that future labeling policies do not "mislead" consumers who may believe that plant-based and cow's dairy have comparable nutritional profiles.
The comment period, originally set for November 27, 2018, was extended in October to January 28.
The Request for Information was made in response to the 2016 DAIRY PRIDE Act, which proposes regulating the use of terms traditionally associated with dairy from animals, such as milk, cheese, and yogurt, forbidding plant-based producers from using them on their packaging.
Nearly half (49 percent) of survey respondents indicated their belief that non-dairy brands should be prohibited from using the term "milk," however, other surveys have shown different consumer opinions. Recent research from the Plant-Based Foods Association showed that 78 percent of cow’s milk consumers believe that “milk” is the most appropriate term to refer to plant-based dairy alternatives.
Sales of plant-based milk currently make up around 13 percent of total milk sales in the United States, according to Nielsen data released this summer.
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