Overview of China's Plant Based Milk Market

China's Global Food & Hospitality Trade Show 2018 was held from November 13thto 15th, 2018 in Shanghai. It was attended by 3,000 companies from 60 countries and regions. During the trade show, experts from different countries expounded their ideas about the Chinese dairy market with a focus on plant-based milk alternatives. Verena Wiederkehr, head of Food Industry & Retail of Proveg International elaborated on the plant-based milk global market and also the market in China. From a global standpoint, the plant-based milk alternatives market was valued at about US 21 billion dollars in 2015 and is projected to exceed US 34 billion dollars by 2024. 

More and more companies are setting up production lines for plant-based milk. In 2016, Elmhurst Dairy of New York shut down its cow’s milk dairy operations in the backdrop of a national downturn in dairy consumption. Ethically minded consumers are more aware of the potential for maltreatment of cows during milk production. Concerns related to the potential negative impact of dairy on health have also garnered considerable public attention. From 2011 to 2015, the consumption of US dairy products decreased (13%). While, according to Nielsen, the sales of plant-based milk surged from $900 million in 2012 to USD 1.4 billion in 2017. 

  • From 2015 to 2017, plant-based milk sales increased by 17% 
  • From 2012 to 2014, the usage of vegan labeling claims on packages increased by 440% (claims like “free from dairy/ lactose-free”)
  • According to China CDC data, over 90% of Asians have lactose deficiency 

In acknowledgment of this sea change, Elmhurst Dairy has made the decision to change its course going forward, starting with a change of name to Elmhurst Nutmilk. The company now exclusively produces plant-based milk. Senior vice president of sales, Mike Brown said, the new business is booming. In 2017, Danone took 40% of the market share of the plant-based milk market brand through its second most popular brand Alpro. Famous Swedish vegan milk brand, OATLY also achieved big success in the US, Europe and Asian countries.  

Favorable conditions in China

1.Chinese consumers (as well as consumers in Asian countries) prioritize health which is important in the context of approximately 90% of Asians being lactose intolerant.
2. From 2012 to 2014, the usage of vegan labeling claims on packages increased by 440% (claims like "free from dairy/lactose").
3. 73% of Chinese consumers are willing to spend more money on healthier products.
4. From 2015 to 2017, the plant-based milk sales in China increased by 17%. 

Market Share of plant protein beverage in China

Plant-based milk regulations

  • Definition of "plant-based milk"

Although the definition of raw milk in B 19G301-2010 refers to the normal mammary secretion from healthy milking animals when the work milk is proceeded by another word like soy/ almond it actually is classed as a beverage and more specifically a “plant protein beverage” standardized by GB/T 10789-2015.

  • Plant protein beverage regulation

We have GB/T 10789-2015 General Standard for Beverages which stipulates the different standards used for different plant milks: QB/T 2439 for peanut milk, GB/T 31325-2014 for walnut milk, GB/T 30885-2014 for soymilk and soymilk beverage, etc. 

  • Vegan labels in China

We don't have a specific vegan label in China. Besides, for products containing the following, allergen information is mandatory:

1.Grains containing gluten and their products (such as wheat, rye, barley, oats, spelt or their cross-breeding strains);
2.Peanut and its products
3.Soybeans and their products
4.Nuts and their products