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Growing trends of vegan milk (almond and soymilk) in Indian market
Saturday, 27 February, 2021, 13 : 00 PM [IST]
Tejashree Wadhwani
Veganism in India and plant based milks
Veganism as a dietary choice has been on the verge of blooming growth since last decade. As more and more people become concerned about animal cruelty, health, and environment, increasing parts of population are switching to vegan diets. As the trend promises a growing market in future, plant based meat and milk replacements have already started hitting store shelves in full swing.

India is known to be one of the most convenient countries for vegetarians and yet, veganism is relatively on a less accelerated surge due country’s obsession with milk in diet. Nonetheless, veganism isn’t completely absent and the vegan population in India continues to grow slowly but exponentially.

As the market demands for dairy substitutes increased globally, researchers and manufacturers came up with innovative solutions resulting in an all-new range and definition of what we call ‘milk’. Although plant-based milk is distinguished from mammary-sourced milk and certain regulations amend the use of alternative words like ’plant-based beverages’ or ‘mylk’ (in EU), their positive impacts on animals and health are well discussed about.
Factors positively influencing market trends
The use of technology has made non-dairy milk alternatives mimic the texture, colour, physical property and even the look of dairy milk, which is gradually making them more popular. Soy milk and almond milk remain to be few of the popular choices. Not only physically, but fortified plant-based milks are also in the line of competitors nutritionally. Soy milk serves as a close substitute when it comes to the amount of proteins. Almond milk comes out impressively in taste because of its slightly sweet, nutty flavour.

Plant based milk can also add beneficial phytochemicals, giving them another potential. Isoflavones in soy and naturally present vitamin E in almonds give an additional therapeutic value to their respective milks. Other popular plant-based milks include nut milks (hazelnut/cashew milk), cereal milks (oat/rice/hemp milk), coconut milk, legume milk, etc. Coconut milk is known to be proximal as it is used in several delicacies of South-western and South India.

Soy products are believed to be the most preferred substitutes due to low production costs, good nutrition profile, better availability, better sustainability profile and price. Almond milk, although popular, usually tends to be expensive which can be an uneasy choice on the pockets of Indian middle-class population.

Nonetheless, the impact of plant-based milks towards reducing animal cruelty and helping the lactose intolerant population is a known concept.

Factors limiting market trends
Relatively higher prices and a limited sensory acceptability of plant-based milks can become a restrictive parameter when it comes to Indian population, which can eventually lead to a decrease in market share of non-dairy milks. The bean flavour in soy milk can be uninviting whereas high starch content in cereal milks like rice milk can be unappreciable in regards to texture. Although technology has limited these shortcomings, the market value can be influenced by even the smallest of changes. Although plant-based milk can help people suffering from lactose intolerance, presence of nut allergies in a considerable amount of population can be a major turn-off towards nut milk.

Moreover, the discussion of plant-based milks being sourced on the back of underpaid labourers has created a new snag by unethical capitalist corporations. It has also been observed that certain methods used for procurement of ingredients contradict the initially intended purpose behind the use of plant-based milks. Studies have shown that certain methods of procurement of almonds for milk production have been harmful for bee ecosystems residing on and around almond trees; whereas deforestation to create more lands for excessive soy and cereal farming has caused alarming situations.

Although India is considered vegetarian friendly, the idea of restricting dairy becomes refraining for many Indians as dairy has been a part of rituals and traditional diets in the form of ghee, curd, mawa/khoya, paneer, etc.
When it comes to Indian population, complex combinations of parameters come into the picture as plant-based milk comes with its pros and cons, just like dairy milk. The awareness about veganism Indian population is limited and vegan lifestyles aren’t feasible for everyone. India also has prevalence of certain deficiencies like iron, vitamin D and vitamin B12 which makes such shifts more difficult due to limited bioavailability and lower economic capacity. Hence, veganism is mostly seen being practiced by people in cities or by relatively privileged and non-marginalized groups. Besides, the religious idea of milk being viewed as a product of purity and it being used in rituals and traditional cuisines is another factor that majorly influences dietary choices and veganism in India.

Plant milk still has a potential to become a successful participant on Indian grocery store shelves provided it becomes accessible to everyone at a price masses can afford. Veganism is a great step towards animals and planet, if people and corporations let it fulfill the purpose of being anti-speciesist, environment-friendly, ethical, safe and middle-class friendly. Veganism is a way to show compassion.

Veganism is more than a dietary trend; hence is here to stay!

(The author has completed her graduation in Chemistry and is pursuing a Master's Degree in Nutraceuticals)
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