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The battle between dairy milk and plant-based milk is hotting up - with new plant-based alternatives posing 'dangerous competition', according to a white paper published this week.
The paper, White Paper: Terminology Tempest in the Dairy Case, claims that it is the position in supermarket fridges, rather than on the peripheries of the store, that makes vegan milk a greater threat.
Author David Sprinkle writes: "This is a battle for shelf space and consumer dollars.
"The new generation of refrigerated plants milks - with almond milk and novel blends leading the dairy-free charge - represent far more dangerous competition to dairy milk than the soy milks of yore, safely tucked away in the center store, in perfunctory flavors and in shelf-stable aseptic packaging that does not signal either fresh or milk-like to U.S. consumers.
"What a difference refrigerated formulation and the familiar gable-top carton makes."
Sprinkle examines the recent EU court ruling banning dairy alternative products from using dairy-related names (milk, butter and cheese, for example).
But he says far from trying to mislead consumers, alternative products are trying to highlight their differences.
"On the whole, dairy alternatives aren’t flying under cover of dairy terminology to conceal their non-dairy identity," Sprinkle writes.
"Instead, with their non-dairy identity a given, they are signaling to consumers which dairy products they aim to compete with.
"So it’s true that non-dairy products compete brazenly against dairy products, but that’s how the marketplace works."
Sprinkle adds that while 'by letter of the law the EU court decision was right on the money', he believes the dairy association lobbying for regulatory action was more about 'throwing regulatory obstacles in the way of a challenging marketplace competitor that is gaining ground'.
He writes: "Among U.S. households, 89 per cent use dairy milk, 30 per cent use dairy alternative beverages, and only 10 per cent specifically use soy milk.
"Scale-wise, if not in terms of market momentum, this is Goliath slinging a stone at a runtish David.
"In this broader context of consumer purchasing trends for dairy vs. plant milks, regulatory enforcement of non-dairy product terminology seems unlikely to have a significant effect on sales.
"The trend has left the station."
Maria is a former magazine editor and newspaper reporter. She has specialized in writing content for the plant-based sector for several years, as well as reporting on agriculture, politics and regional news. You can follow her on Twitter @MariaChiorando and Instagram @mariachiorando.
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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are prepared in the author's capacity and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Plant Based News itself.