Alternative dairy growth is outpacing alt meat

Numerator research also dives into the opportunity for strength in one plant-based category to cross-promote the other.


The latest Canadian consumer insights from Numerator reveal that growth for dairy alternatives is outpacing that of meat alternatives, and this is being led primarily through digital media.

In its report, Numerator surveyed 1,000 Canadian consumers and verified category shoppers. And it turns out brands should be crying tears of joy about oat milk, as the category is experiencing a 680% year-over-year surge in ad spend. In fact, oat milk also leads in projected growth, followed by dairy cheese alternatives.

Dairy alternatives overall – yogurt excepted – are outpacing meat. And according to Numerator, the alternative consumer can be reached and is more likely to be influenced digitally. In fact, alternative dairy categories spend a higher proportion on digital advertising than meat (36% versus 8%).



“Alternative meat may never meet high sales that were forecast,” warns Ed Matthews, consultant, client services at Numerator, as the numbers show flatlining or marginal growth for things like plant-based nuggets, ground crumble and hot dogs.

The market is in a state of flux, but overall, the alternative category continues to promise high growth potential, more so in Canada than in the U.S.: the buy rate for all categories continues to grow, while the U.S. appears to have peaked around 2020 and plateaued.

Numerator insights reveal that repeat buyers are committed: 69% of repeat dairy and 67% of meat alternatives buyers are going to replace portions of their “traditional” buying. And what’s more, about 95% of spend is represented by this group.

Flyer promotions, Numerator reports, are helping to drive year over year growth, and Walmart and Real Canadian Superstore are capturing a higher wallet share (SOW) in alternative categories than they do in traditional (see, below) while the reverse is happening at Costco, No Frills and Sobeys banners.


Matthews also points out the possibility of cross promotions, as meat alternative shoppers buy lots of dairy alternative categories, save for the slumping soy and cashew milks. Numerator recommends that retailers can capture more spend by driving meat alternative buyers to dairy alternatives.

Finally, Numerator also recommends leaning into health motivators to reach new consumers. Effective shelf displays, word of mouth, and store fliers are key to reaching curious and health and plant-conscious buyers.

Psychographically, alternative purchasers are high net worth, committed to organics, believers in organic ideals, physically active, and reachable by digital.