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18 Jan 2021

Econ Digest

Plant-based milk beverages provide vast opportunuities…meeting diverse needs


         Soy milk is a common plant-based drink that is available in both freshly boiled and ready-to-drink bottled/boxed forms, and currently holds the largest market share in the plant-based milk beverage market. The soy milk beverage market has become increasingly competitive due to the entry of new operators, a greater focus on customers requiring premium products (such as soy milk made of organic soybeans, 100% soy milk without milk powder and vegetable oil), and the development of value-added products such as new flavored soy milk and toppings in beverages, etc. 

         Given the growing popularity of plant-based milk around the world, alternative plant-based beverages such as almond milk, pistachio milk, walnut milk, oat milk, corn milk and brown rice milk have been developed to meet the broader consumer demand for plant-based milk beverages. Although the current market share of alternative plant-based milk beverages in Thailand is still small at only 2-3% of the market value of soy milk, it is expected that there will be opportunities to continuously expand the market, as it is in line with future consumer trends: 1) groups that avoid consuming animal products and need to replace animal dairy products with plant-based milk beverages; 2) groups with special nutritional needs, such as those with lactose intolerance or those who are concerned about weight control; 3) new generation groups with middle to high purchasing power need new products that can meet specific needs, as their current average prices are still higher than the price of soy milk. 

         KResearch estimates that the market value of alternative plant-based milk beverages excluding soy milk in 2020 should be THB500-600 million*​ . Business operators still have to focus on product differentiation, details of production processes and raw materials rather than price competition, and must target the new-generation market that is willing to pay for products that meet specific needs. 

        The continued expansion of the alternative plant-based milk beverage market is expected to attract new business operators to enter the market, driving the market competition towards greater competition. Operators with long-term growth potential must be able to meet customer needs by providing a wide variety of products, seeking raw materials for the production of plant-based milk with different nutritional values, and offering flavors and ingredients suitable for each customer segment that can provide customers in each market segment, with a wide range of product choices from low-priced products to premium products. However, domestic plant-based milk beverage companies still face the management challenge of having to import most of their raw materials, which may affect the cost of production, and also have to compete with foreign imports of plant-based milk products such as from Australia and Japan, giving consumers a choice of products in different price ranges, and in some cases at prices similar to those produced in Thailand. For Thai business operators, the challenge is how to create a price competitive brand of plant-based milk beverages and how to be able to expand from niche products to main markets like soymilk beverages.

 * Assessment of the primary revenues of domestic producers/distributors of alternative plant-based milk beverages, excluding soy milk. 

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