Plant-Based Milk Makes Waves in Singapore’s Coffee Sector

Mintel plant based milk

A discernible shift in consumer preferences within the food and beverage industry has unfolded in recent years, characterised by a rising demand for plant-based alternatives. Amid this array of choices, oat milk has emerged as a standout favourite, revered for its adaptability as a substitute for conventional dairy milk. Reflecting this shift, Flash Coffee, a popular grab-and-go coffee chain in Singapore, has teamed up with local oat milk brand Oatside. The partnership aims to establish oat milk as the default choice in all milk-based beverages across Flash Coffee outlets throughout Singapore without imposing additional costs on consumers. This strategic move coincides with the launch of the #SipForChange campaign, designed to spotlight the daily challenges tied to making sustainable consumer decisions while fostering perseverance.

Beyond being a singular brand initiative, this development mirrors a broader trend toward embracing sustainable and conscious consumption patterns among consumers. According to Mintel Global Consumer research, 30 percent of Singaporean consumers are actively reducing their dairy intake, and a striking 70 percent are proactively seeking ways to enhance their environmental consciousness.

While health-conscious and eco-minded consumers increasingly gravitate toward alternative dairy options, concerns about elevated costs often linger as a hurdle. For instance, 50 percent of Filipino and 53 percent of Indian consumers believe that plant-based food and drinks (such as veggie burgers and soymilk) should be priced lower than animal-based products (such as meat and dairy). Flash Coffee's decision to adopt oat milk as the default option and eliminate any premium charge underscores the brand's dedication to democratising sustainable consumption for consumers. The acceptance and preference for plant-based alternatives hinge significantly on their flavour profiles. Notably, in China, the bland taste has been cited by 30 percent of consumers as a barrier to adopting oat-based drinks or milk.

Catering to Lactose Intolerance

This strategic shift also opens doors for Flash Coffee to cater to an untapped demographic – individuals who opt out of dairy consumption due to lactose intolerance. Given that lactose intolerance is prevalent among Asian populations, Flash Coffee's move to serve oat milk as the default option extends a welcoming hand to lactose-intolerant customers, enabling them to savour their favourite beverages without discomfort.

Plant-Based Trends within Coffee

Flash Coffee's embrace of oat milk as the standard choice mirrors a more significant trend in the coffee sector, where other companies similarly embrace sustainable practices. For instance, Vittoria, an Australian coffee brand, has introduced a coffee blend meticulously designed with almond, oat, and soy-based alt-milks, acknowledging the burgeoning demand for plant-based selections. Moreover, the robust demand for alternative milk in New Zealand has prompted local beverage manufacturer Free Flow to announce plans for the country's inaugural dedicated oat milk production facility by the close of 2023.

Insights and Observations

As the momentum of the plant-based movement gains momentum, oat milk and other plant-based milk alternatives are seamlessly integrating themselves onto menus at cafes and coffee establishments worldwide. This widespread adoption underscores that plant-based milk is more than a fad. Rooted in Mintel's "Free From" trend, consumers increasingly scrutinise labels, ingredients, and production methods, embracing once-niche lifestyles and dietary preferences. This evolution shapes coffee culture and will likely result in innovative combinations of hero plant-based ingredients that cater to unique dietary choices. With sustainability and mindful consumption emerging as priorities for consumers, the trajectory of plant-based milk alternatives is poised for continued growth.