First came soya, nut and then oat but the new challenger to the plant milk crown is the humble spud as potato milk arrives on UK supermarket shelves.
Described as “deliciously creamy” and capable of producing the “perfect foam” for a homemade latte or cappuccino, the Swedish potato milk brand Dug goes on sale in 220 Waitrose stores this week.
Sales of plant-based alternatives to milk are booming in the UK with the market now worth about £400m a year as Britons reduce their consumption of animal products.
In recent years the buzz has been around oat milk, thanks to the success of rival Swedish brand Oatly, but in its recent food and drink report Waitrose predicted that in 2022 it would be “the turn of the potato”.
Waitrose said that in 2021 its sales of plant-based milk were almost a fifth higher than in 2019 as alt-dairy entered the mainstream. Oat milk is the current bestseller, ahead of almond, soya and coconut, it said.
Waitrose’s alternative milk buyer, Alice Shrubsall, said sales of the products had “gone from strength-to-strength over the past few years” adding: “Demand hasn’t slowed in this market and we’re seeing customers become more experimental with their alternative milk choices.”
Emma Källqvist, the acting chief executive of Veg of Lund which owns the Dug brand, said its arrival on the high street was a “critical milestone” for the company. It is already available online on sites such as Amazon and Ocado.
For many alt-milk fans the attraction is they offer a route to reducing the environmental impact of their diet due to the level of greenhouse gas emissions associated with traditional dairy farming. However, the Advertising Standards Authority recently banned a marketing campaign by Oatly, ruling that the green claims made were misleading.
Made in the UK, Dug’s ingredients include pea protein and rapeseed oil as well as potato. It describes itself as “super sustainable” and has worked with CarbonCloud, a firm that calculates the climate footprint of foods, to assess its environmental credentials. Dug says its footprint is significantly lower than dairy milk. Growing potatoes is twice as efficient as oats and the crop uses less water than nuts like almonds, it says.
Ophélie Buchet, global food and drink analyst at market research firm Mintel, says potato milk has the potential to displace oat as a more sustainable dairy-free milk alternative “without asking consumers to compromise on nutrition, price or taste”.
However, the cost of potato milk will be key to its long-term success as the higher price of plant milks is the “number one” thing that stops consumers buying them, according to Mintel. Dug’s “barista” version costs £1.80 for a litre versus 90p for 1.1 litres of Waitrose’s cheapest own-brand cow’s milk.
As well as price some shoppers also complain about the taste of plant milks. Potato milk is described as having a “neutral” flavour that means it can be mixed in tea and coffee, poured on breakfast cereal or used in cooking without overpowering the drink or dish. However, other reviews have painted a less flattering picture suggesting it has a “saline aftertaste”.
Potatoes have a big hill to climb if they are going to challenge the supremacy of oat, now the biggest selling plant-milk, or dairy – cow’s milk is still a far bigger market, worth more than £3bn. Potatoes are a very “niche” ingredient representing on average less than 0.2% of plant milk launches, but high profile debuts like DUG could change that, adds Buchet.