A shift in attitude means plant-based options are seen as part of a positive and healthy lifestyle, rather than a necessary response to intolerances.
Oat, soya, almond and coconut are the top alternatives, with rice and hemp also new to the on-trade and off-trade.
Plant-based options are cost-efficient because they command a premium over dairy, according to a new report titled Plant-Based Profits from Alpro and BB Foodservice.
Speciality coffees that incorporate plant-based milk can be marketed as an indulgent treat and sold at a premium price.
Almost one in three consumers would visit and buy more often if their favourite plant-based drink was available, the research discovered.
Soya and oat milks are seen as more functional – their proteins work the same way as dairy in coffee. But almond and coconut milks can be used in more indulgent drink options, offering an additional taste that customers are willing to pay extra for.
Alpro found that plant-based shoppers will typically spend 20% more on a hot drink out of home than their dairy-drinking counterparts.
Breakfast is also a ripe market for pub operators to appeal to plant-based drinkers, with the meal making up one eighth of out-of-home food visits every month.
BB Foodservice director of trading & catering Steve Carter said: “We’ve seen first-hand how demand for plant-based products has skyrocketed in recent years, and it’s showing no signs of slowing down. The number of consumers opting for dairy-free products has never been higher and as our report finds, they’re willing to spend more to get them.
“Dairy alternative products have cemented themselves in every corner of foodservice, as evidenced by the fact that one in three people now regularly buy plant-based when out of home.
“That’s why we’ve called on Alpro’s expertise to launch this report. Complete with recipe suggestions, it ensures operators know what their customers expect.”
Alpro UK & Ireland marketing director Vicky Bhattu added: “The surging demand for plant-based food and drink, particularly out of home, signals a significant opportunity for operators, but only if they are armed with the insight, advice and know-how to capitalise on this fast-growing and rapidly evolving category.”