Plant-based milk penetrates the coffee sector in Singapore

Plant-based milk penetrates the coffee sector in Singapore

August 15, 2023
3 min read

In recent years, the food and drink industry has witnessed a significant shift in consumer preferences, with a growing demand for plant-based alternatives. Among a myriad of choices in this realm, oat milk has gained widespread popularity as a versatile substitute for traditional dairy milk. Embracing this shift, Singapore’s grab-and-go coffee chain Flash Coffee has partnered with local oat milk brand Oatside to make oat milk the default option in all its milk-based beverages across its outlets in Singapore with no extra charge to consumers. It also launched the #SipForChange campaign to highlight the daily challenges of making sustainable consumer choices and encouraging perseverance.

Flash Coffee announces the #SipforChange campaign. Source: Instagram

However, this move is not just about a single brand initiative; it reflects a broader transition towards sustainable and mindful consumption patterns among consumers. Mintel Global Consumer research shows that 30% of Singaporean consumers are opting to limit their dairy intake, and 70% actively seeking ways to be more environmentally conscious.

While more consumers are increasingly gravitating towards healthier and eco-friendly dairy alternatives, added costs often remain a barrier. For instance, 50% of Filipino consumers and 53% of Indian consumers believe that plant-based food/drink (eg veggie burgers, soymilk) should cost less than animal-based products (eg meat, dairy). By making oat milk the default option and permanently removing the premium, Flash Coffee is showing its commitment to making sustainable consumption more accessible to consumers. Ensuring widespread acceptance and preference for plant-based alternatives heavily relies on the flavour profile of these products. Therefore, it is crucial for plant-based milk to deliver on taste. In China, 30% of consumers cite ‘bland taste’ as a consumption barrier to oat-based drinks/milk.

Catering to lactose intolerance

This shift also presents an opportunity for Flash Coffee to cater to a previously untapped segment – consumers who choose to avoid dairy products due to lactose intolerance. Lactose intolerance is prevalent among Asian populations, and by serving oat milk as the default option, Flash Coffee ensures that lactose-intolerant customers can enjoy their favourite beverages without any discomfort.

Plant-based trends in coffee

Flash Coffee’s adoption of oat milk as the default option mirrors a broader trend in the coffee industry, where other companies are also embracing sustainable practices. For instance, Australian coffee brand Vittoria has introduced a coffee blend specifically designed for use with almond, oat, and soy alt-milks, acknowledging the growing demand for plant-based options. Moreover, the strong demand for alternative milk in New Zealand has led local beverage manufacturer Free Flow to open what it claimed to be the country’s first dedicated oat milk production facility by the end of 2023.

What we think

As the plant-based movement gains momentum, plant-based milk alternatives like oat milk are becoming a regular feature on the menus of cafes and coffee shops worldwide. This widespread acceptance indicates that plant-based milk is far from being a passing trend. According to Mintel Trend Free From, consumers are focusing on labels, ingredients and production methods, embracing once-niche ways of living and eating. As a result, the coffee culture is evolving, and we can expect exciting innovations, such as delightful flavours created through creative pairings with hero plant-based ingredients that cater to unique dietary preferences. Additionally, with consumers prioritising sustainability and mindful consumption, the growth of plant-based milk alternatives is bound to continue.

For deeper insights into coffee and/or plant-based milk trends in the APAC region and beyond, as well as consumer behaviours within the category, check out the Mintel Store. Discover the latest research to make informed decisions to grow your business today. 

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