What’s next for plant-based cream and creamers?

February 17, 2021
4 min read

While cream and creamer innovation has significantly expanded, future growth will depend on addressing processing concerns and matching dairy’s versatility.

Plant-based creamers need to continue innovating to catch up to dairy

The proportion of cream and creamer launches carrying “vegan/no animal ingredients” claims have increased over the past five years, but still represents less than 10% of the global market.

Meanwhile, a significant proportion of consumers report interest in reducing their animal foods intake, including dairy. For example, a quarter of Germans list eating fewer animal products (eg dairy, meat) as a post-COVID-19 food and drink aspiration.

This suggests an opportunity for more innovation in the cream/creamer space to appeal to consumers who are looking to add more variety to their meals without animal foods. To continue on the growth trajectory, plant-based cream and creamers can address fears of processing and mimic dairy better by varying fat levels and playing up flavor on-pack.

Plant-based cream and coffee creamer innovation has come a long way

Cream and creamer innovation has evolved from primarily soy-based products without usage cues to clearly labeled offerings with a variety of applications and ingredient profiles.

Unlike the early days of “soya cream”, Earth’s Own Culinary Edition Oat Cream Alternative highlights that the product is made with oats grown by Canadian farmers using 7x less water than almond or cow’s milk, and can be used like cream.

Plant-based creams have expanded into a range of culinary applications

Innovation has included not only liquid cream substitutes but also powders, whipped toppings and even sour cream that can step in for dairy-based ingredients in recipes.

An ideal creamy base for recipes
Provamel Organic Cooking Soy Cream has been relaunched with 17% fat. The product is made with organic soya from varieties that contain high-quality protein, and sunflower oil added to create an ideal creamy base for all recipes (Norway).

Dairy-free sour cream
Wayfare Sour Cream uses butter beans and oats to create a creamier texture. The kosher product is said to be simple, delicious and amazing, and is free from dairy, GMO, gluten, soy and cholesterol (US).

Whipped topping
AH Plant-Based Topping Alternative for Whipped Cream is made with coconut oil for a gluten- and milk-free alternative to traditional whipped cream (Netherlands).

Coffee creamer innovation has tapped into performance, functionality and seasonal flavors

Ready to froth
Silk Oat Yeah The Vanilla One Coffee Whitener claims to contain the richness of dairy creamer and to transform the consumer’s morning joe (Canada).

Functional powder creamer
Laird Superfood Unsweetened Superfood Creamer is described as a clean plant-based fuel said to add an energy boost to coffee, tea, smoothies and food. It features the benefit of coconut and Aquamin said to help power through the day (US).

Seasonal flavors
Nut Pods Cinnamon Swirl Almond + Coconut Creamer. This limited-edition vegan creamer is naturally flavored, is unsweetened and crafted from simple ingredients, and is described as a plant-based alternative to half-and-half (US).

Explore free-from positioning to address fears of processing

Consumers are concerned about the number of ingredients and the level of processing of plant-based dairy. More than half of Americans say that they would like to see dairy alternatives that are less processed, according to Mintel US research on dairy alternatives.

To overcome this stigma, cream and creamer brands can employ “free-from” claims, which will resonate with consumers. For example, one-third of US consumers are seeking dairy alternatives that are free from preservatives.

Alternatively, brands can opt for communicating the minimal number of ingredients in the product. For example, Elmhurst French Vanilla Flavored Lightly Sweetened Hemp Creamer is made with only five ingredients, including “the real cream of actual hemp seeds to unlock the maximum potential of this superfood and natural flavors.”

Dial up flavor descriptors

Few cream and creamer products share flavor attributes on pack, which is a missed opportunity for brands to not only highlight the unique flavor profiles of almonds, oats or coconut but also to introduce flavor additions.

For example, almond-based cream from Eco Mil is made with white and shiitake mushrooms, onion and black pepper. By highlighting the umami that mushrooms bring and offering recipe suggestions, the brand can attract consumers who are looking to bring new flavor experiences and cooking shortcuts into their routines.

What we think

Cream and creamer brands can explore how to match dairy not only in format but also by varying fat levels. To ensure consumer interest in these products long-term, manufacturers will benefit from simplifying the ingredient lists and dialing up flavor descriptors.

Dasha Shor
Dasha Shor

Dasha Shor is a global food analyst at Mintel, specializing in animal proteins, dairy and their alternatives. A Registered Dietitian, Dasha leans on her nutrition and food science expertise and experience working with commodity, foodservice and CPG companies to develop actionable insights for the food and beverage industry.

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