The Demise of Plant Based Milks

The Lempert Report
May 17, 2023

The price of oak milk is about double the price of cow's milk, and it looks like there's no end in sight that whether it's almond milk or oat milk or soy milk, the prices continue to go up, especially because of the weather problems that we've had with those crops. Especially, here in California where there's this flooding that's been going on from these 12 atmospheric rivers, I think the numbers something like 89 tons of water, has fallen on the state of California since mid-December. So we are gonna see the prices of almonds go up as well as other things. So it looks like, oat milk is gonna continue to rise as all these other plant milks are. And I guess my question is, because there's this article in The Guardian that talks about this food writer who basically has switched from oat milk to cow's milk because of the price.  And also what she found is that while oat milk might have the same amount of calories, it doesn't have protein, which gets delivered in cow's milk. And oak milk, they point out ,is much more profitable than cow's milk. It takes a lot less to grow oats than it does to birth a cow and own a cow and milk it. We also see the plant milk sales have declined 3.6% in the past year. So I guess my question for you is, are plant-based milks over?

Sally: Well, Phil. There's definitely a big cost difference. In fact, I was looking at Kroger today at the difference between my Kroger here in Nashville. The difference is between dairy milk, a half gallon is $1.99, That's just for regular, not organic milk. And then oat milk ranges all from $2.19, which is the Kroger private label brand, the Simple Truth brand, the oat milk range, and then ranges from $3.79 to $5.99. So that is a very, very big price difference. What I am wondering is when we think about the reasons that people switch to plant-based milks and that is because, one, they could have a dairy allergy, we have 1.9% of Americans are allergic to dairy. Perhaps they're lactose intolerant. The National Institute of Health says that 68% of the world's population is lactose intolerant and we know that that is higher for African Americans and Asians as well. So those are some of the reasons. And then we also have to look at reasons such as animal welfare. Many people are turning to vegan diets and don't want buy any an animal produced product. So, we've got to still consider that consumer and what they're looking for. But yes, the price difference is so much there that I wouldn't be surprised if people start turning back to the dairy milk. 

Phil: Yeah. And when we take a look, it's more than just price. You point out that a lot of people are concerned about sustainability issues and the environment, but let's not forget that the factories that make plant-based milks have a greater environmental impact than those just from milking a cow. And yes, we have methane gas, emitted from cows. That's certainly a problem. But I do think we are gonna see a shift as this price continues to go up, where people are gonna really rethink whether or not plant-based milks, old milk and almond milk are actually worth it when they have to kick over five bucks for a half a gallon versus a $1.99 for cows milk.