This week The Grocer published its annual Dairyman special, underpinned by its exclusive consumer research to find out the truth behind attitudes to dairy, and the impact this is having on the market.

Almost quarter (24%) of shoppers are already thinking about cutting back on the amount of dairy they consume, with this figure rising to around a third for 16 to 34-year-olds. This is not to say they are looking to cut dairy out all together and adopt a wholly vegan lifestyle, however they are making the conscious decision to look for dairy alternatives.

The dairy alternatives category has grown 18.3% year on year to £384m, with volume surging by 17.4%. It is also reported that not a single dairy free category has seen any decline over the past year, with only soya milk alternatives and spreads not registering double digit growth figures.

Lucia Juliano, Head of CPG & Retail Research at Harris Interactive said: “There is a clear age gap in attitudes towards dairy with younger ages either most likely to have cut down dairy intake or be planning to do so. The over-45s are much more resistant to recent dietary trends against dairy consumption and this group remain loyal consumers.”

So why is it that the younger generation are far more likely to adopt the flexitarian approach to food? Health, animal welfare and the environment were cited as the top three reasons for people cutting back, however there are some clear variations among the different age groups in comparison.

Health was a driver to cut back on dairy for almost one in seven (69%) shoppers aged 45 to 54, for example, but just 44% of 16 to 24-year-olds, with the younger generation very concerned about animal welfare (42%) and the environmental impact of dairy farming (35%). There was also some large discrepancies among aged groups when it came to the perceptions of which type of milk was the “healthiest”.

When asked to rank different types of ‘milk’ according to their healthiness, the majority (44%) of over 55-year-olds rank cow’s milk as the healthiest, but the majority of 16 to 24-year-olds (39%) rate it as the least healthy.

It is reported that general lack of consumer understanding regarding nutritional content could be to blame for a changing attitude towards dairy, however with factors such as animal welfare and environmental issues cited as being just as important for the younger generation, it cannot solely be nutrition that is influencing the core flexitarian consumer.

With no sign of decline for dairy alternatives, it is suggested that organic, free from, and products that give more back to local producers will play a major part in the future of dairy in the UK. Support for British farmers remains high, with over half (53%) of shoppers agreeing that “supermarkets should pay dairy farmers more and take less profit”, while 21% believe we should “all pay more for our milk and cheese to support British farmers”.

With ethics rating so high, this is certainly a surging market growth that cannot be solely put down to clever marketing.


  • The full Dairyman supplement is available with the 16th September 2016 edition of The Grocer.
  • Harris Interactive, a full-service digital consultative custom market research agency, polled more than 1,000 consumers for The Grocer for this article.
  • NEW Kantar logo – Dec 2016
  • With its 30,000-strong consumer panel, Kantar Worldpanel , is a leading consumer and shopper insights provider. Kantar provided sales and usage data and analysis for this food pr article


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