Key Trends: Health & Plant-Based Eating

One of the most prominent dietary and consumer trends taking place globally and in the GCC is the shift towards plant-based (vegan) and flexitarian diets. Veganism has become the fastest growing consumer trend with a global growth rate of 600% and some countries like the UK recording 987% growth.

According to Innova market insights, 87% of all new products launched globally from 2015-2019 carried a Vegan, Vegetarian or Plant-based claim. This is the first time we have seen such lop-sided NPD statistics in the direction of a single claim.


The Market for Plant-Based Milk
The global plant-based milk market is currently valued at $25 billion and is growing at over 10% a year. In the UAE we have seen the plant-based milk category grow approximately 50% (retail estimates) since the start of the pandemic with over 20 imported brands now present and local manufacturers and foodservice distributors also embracing the trend. So what are the factors driving the growth of plant-based dairy
alternatives in the Middle East?

”Plant-Based Milk launches in Egypt and Saudi Arabia,
other players are expected to enter the market this year.”

In a recent YouGov survey conducted on plant-based diets in the UAE, almost half of the respondents claimed to have replaced dairy with a plant-based meal or drink over the past year. A logical outcome considering that that 46% of the UAE population are millennials and about 60 percent of millennials worldwide consider themselves flexitarian.


Plant-Based Dairy Alternatives are non-animal derived drinkable and spoonable products which have a similar consistency and sensory profile as milk products but are made from plants such as grains, nuts, legumes and seeds.

Across all types of plant-milk, plain flavours dominate sales, accounting to 71% of the total value. Flavored milks, RTD coffees and other plant-based beverages are also gaining traction.

In the USA, Plant-Based milks now dominate 15% of the total milk market with almond milks leading the charge and Oat milk experiencing the highest growth.


USA Plant-based Milk Sales & Sales Growth By Product Type (2019)

Source: SPINSscan Natural and Speciality Gourmet (proprietary), SPINSscan Conventional Multi Outlet (powered by IRI), 52 weeks ending 2019-Dec-29


Source: WHO, Alpen Capital, Comax Flavor Survey, Food Intolerance Network


Over 90% of plant-based milk consumers are not vegan.

Although 48% of consumers claim to prefer the taste of plant-based milks over dairy and while environmental and ethical factors are also driving demand, we envisage the health factors to be the main driver of this trend in the Middle East due to the high rates of lactose intolerance in the region.

Lactose intolerance rates have been diagnosed at 33% across the GCC and the actual rates have been estimated at 65-75%. Other consumers are also allergic to other ingredients in dairy such as casein and whey.

As a result, we are likely to see more consumers shifting to dairy-free products and although lactose-free dairy milks have been available for over a decade, the additional health and environmental benefits of plant-based milks and their lower calorie count offer the consumer additional advantages over animal-based milk. Here, both health, taste and sustainability are aligned to position this category for healthy growth in the future.










56% of the global population are now demanding more
plant-based alternatives.


Who are Flexitarians & Reducetarians:

✅ 44% of the world population

✅ Consumers making conscious choices between consumption of animal-based and plant-based products for health, ethical and / or environmental reasons.


Vegans & Vegetarians:

✅ 12% of world population and growing.

✅ Vegans do not eat any animal products.


Source: Johns Hopkins University 2019,

65% of Gen-Z said they want to follow a more “plant-forward” diet, while 54% of Millennials are eating more plant-based foods and call themselves flexitarian.



The notion that the human body needs animal proteins to be strong has been disproved by various athletes across the globe who have switched to plant-based diets for improved performance, strength and stamina. This trend is growing rapidly in the sports community due to documentary films such as “The Game Changers” on Netflix.

(All animal products contain cholesterol whereas plant-based products do not.)


These trends are being driven by new knowledge surrounding and consumer awareness of health, nutrition and ingredients which have driven a consistent decline in milk consumption in the US and UK since the 1980s.




Meanwhile the plant-based milk sector has been steadily growing globally.

FSL offers a wide array of Plant-Based milk and dairy alternative solutions to support our customers growth in these new and emerging categories.

Our technical teams, marketing and innovation department can develop unique solutions and offer positioning and marketing support to elevate your brand to a leadership position by outperforming the imported competition.