The Cream of the Crop: Plant-Based vs. Fermentation-Based Dairy

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The dairy business is responsible for 2.9 percent of all human-caused greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, milk has the highest water footprint of all foods, requiring 628 liters of water for every liter consumed.  

This makes milk the worst polluter of freshwater. These figures have sparked R&D initiatives to discover environmentally friendly, long-lasting dairy substitutes that satisfy the rising demand for vegan goods.  

Although plant-based substitutes have historically dominated this sector, new technologies like precise fermentation are gaining ground quickly. 

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In recent years, the food industry has seen a significant shift towards more sustainable and ethical choices. Two prominent options that have gained popularity are plant-based and fermentation-based dairy alternatives.  

As consumers become increasingly conscious of their dietary choices, the question arises: should you focus on plants or fermentation-based dairy? 

The Rise of Plant-Based Dairy 

Plant-based dairy alternatives have taken the world by storm and for a good reason. These products are typically made from sources like soy, almond, oat, coconut, and cashew.  

Here are some compelling reasons to consider plant-based dairy: 

  1. Environmental Sustainability: One of the most significant advantages of plant-based dairy is its lower environmental impact. Traditional dairy farming contributes to greenhouse gas emissions, deforestation, and water pollution.  

    In contrast, plant-based alternatives generally have a smaller carbon footprint and require fewer natural resources. 

  2. Lactose-Free: Plant-based dairy alternatives are naturally lactose-free, making them suitable for individuals with lactose intolerance or dairy allergies. This inclusiveness can help you grow your consumer base.

  3. Variety: The plant-based dairy market offers an extensive range of products, from milk and yogurt to cheese and ice cream. This variety allows you to cater to a diverse customer base with different tastes and dietary preferences.

  4. Health Benefits: Many plant-based dairy products are lower in saturated fat and calories compared to their dairy counterparts. They also tend to be cholesterol-free, making them a healthier choice for those concerned about heart health.

  5. Ethical Considerations: Plant-based dairy is cruelty-free and aligns with ethical and moral concerns about animal welfare. This can resonate with consumers who prioritize animal rights.

Companies Dealing with PlantBased Dairy 

The Cream of the Crop: Plant-Based vs. Fermentation-Based Dairy
  1. Beyond Meat: Known primarily for its plant-based meat alternatives, Beyond Meat has also ventured into plant-based dairy products, such as plant-based cheeses.
  2. Impossible Foods: Similar to Beyond Meat, Impossible Foods started with plant-based meat products and has been exploring plant-based dairy options, including cheeses and milk.
  3. Danone: This multinational food-products corporation owns several dairy-free brands, including Silk (known for almond and soy milk) and So Delicious (known for various dairy alternatives).
  4. Oatly: Oatly specializes in oat-based dairy alternatives, including oat milk, ice cream, and yogurt. The company gained significant attention for its innovative products.
  5. Alpro: A subsidiary of Danone, Alpro focuses on a wide range of plant-based dairy alternatives, including almond, soy, and coconut-based products.
  6. Califia Farms: Califia Farms is recognized for its almond-based and oat-based dairy alternatives, including almond milk and coffee creamers.

The Emergence of Fermentation-Based Dairy 

Fermentation-based dairy alternatives are another exciting option. These products are created by fermenting microorganisms to transform plant-based ingredients into dairy-like products.  

Here are some reasons to consider fermentation-based dairy: 

  1. Authentic Taste and Texture: Fermentation can mimic the taste and texture of traditional dairy products more closely than some plant-based options. This can be appealing to consumers who are looking for a more authentic dairy experience.
  2. Probiotic Benefits: Fermented dairy products often contain beneficial probiotics that can promote gut health. This health benefit can be a selling point for your products.
  3. Clean-Label Ingredients: Fermentation-based dairy alternatives can be made with clean-label ingredients, which is a growing trend in the food industry. This means fewer additives and preservatives, which can attract health-conscious consumers.
  4. Cultural Significance: Fermented dairy products, such as yogurt and kefir, have cultural significance in many cuisines. Offering fermented alternatives allows you to tap into this cultural connection and appeal to a broader audience.

Companies Dealing with FermentationBased Dairy 

The Cream of the Crop: Plant-Based vs. Fermentation-Based Dairy
  1. Chobani: Chobani, a well-known yogurt company, has been exploring the world of fermented dairy alternatives, including plant-based yogurts made from almond and oat milk.
  2. GT’s Living Foods: GT’s Living Foods is known for its kombucha products, which are fermented tea-based beverages with probiotic benefits.
  3. Laird Superfood: While Laird Superfood is primarily known for its coffee creamers and plant-based supplements, it also offers fermented products like coconut water kefir.
  4. The Coconut Collaborative: This company specializes in coconut-based products, including yogurt alternatives that are fermented and dairy-free.

Making the Right Choice 

Ultimately, whether you should focus on plants or fermentation-based dairy depends on your goals, resources, and target market.  

To assist you in making a well-informed decision, here are some key factors to consider: 

  1. Market Research: Analyze your target market and identify their preferences and needs. Are they more inclined towards plant-based or fermentation-based dairy? Collect insights through surveys or market research.
  2. Production Capabilities: Consider your production capabilities and resources. Fermentation-based dairy alternatives may require specific equipment and expertise, while plant-based options can be more versatile. 
  3. Sustainability Goals: If sustainability is a top priority, plant-based dairy may align better with your objectives due to its lower environmental impact.
  4. Taste and Quality: Assess the quality and taste of your products. Regardless of the type, consumers expect high-quality, flavorful dairy alternatives.
  5. Diversification: Don’t limit yourself to one category. Many successful companies offer a range of dairy alternatives, including both plant-based and fermentation-based options.


In conclusion, both plant-based and fermentation-based dairy alternatives have their merits and can be successful in today’s market. The key is to understand your audience, capitalize on your strengths, and continuously innovate to meet the evolving demands of consumers who are increasingly looking for sustainable, ethical, and delicious dairy alternatives. 

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