After three years of research and development, the first “mainstream” vegan yogurt alternative by Nongfu Spring is now commercially available to Chinese consumers. The new vegan range by the Chinese food giant will feature three flavours made by fermenting plant milks. This comes at a time when plant-based products have become increasingly popular in China, and Asian consumers more broadly are becoming more health and environmentally conscious.
Nongfu Spring’s new vegan yoghurt line, which debuted in April, features three flavours: walnut, coconut and almond. Vegan yogurts are made with plant-based milks such as soy, almond, cashew or coconut milk. The process involves fermenting the vegan milks with healthy probiotic bacteria cultures, so the non-dairy alternative contains the same digestive advantages associated with conventional dairy yogurt, without generating the same carbon footprint. Traditional dairy farming depletes land nutrients, uses up large quantities of water and fertiliser, and significantly contributes to greenhouse gas emissions driving climate change. According to international non-profit organisation GRAIN, the world’s top 10 dairy companies are responsible for 231 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions annually.
In addition, there are health concerns related to dairy consumption. Regular intake of dairy has been associated with an increased risk of various cancers, particularly in people who are lactose intolerant. There is also little evidence to suggest that dairy provides any aid to bone health, according to a 2015 study published in the British Medical Journal.
The launch of China’s own plant-based yoghurts is significant because the majority of the population in the country, and the Asian region more broadly, are lactose intolerant. While globally, an estimated 65% of the world’s population have a reduced ability to digest lactose, these figures rise to 90% in Asia. Chinese consumers are indeed concerned about the health related problems with dairy consumption. In a recent report by scientific research consultancy DSM, the Asian Pacific region is experiencing a huge growth in the popularity of plant-based alternatives to dairy products. According to their figures, 81% of Chinese consumers believe that lactose-free dairy is healthier and easier to digest than traditional dairy products.
Chinese consumers are also increasingly interested in plant-based foods and products more broadly. According to a 2018 report by Innova Market Insights, there is a 62% global increase in plant-based products driven by consumer interest in health, sustainability and ethical concerns. Innova’s analysis also adds that the plant-based dairy product alternatives industry will be one of the key categories to benefit from this trend. Asia, in particular, has a growing market for plant-based alternative, given that consumers in the region have shown willingness to spend their dollars on products or services oriented around fitness, health and wellbeing.
Lead image courtesy of Pinch Of Yum.