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Potato milk trend gives Irish farmers the ideal opportunity to board the plant-based bandwagon

Ignoring plant-based products because they're seen as 'the enemy' is a short-sighted strategy when they are getting increasingly popular

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Margaret Donnelly

Margaret Donnelly

Potato milk

Potato milk

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Margaret Donnelly

Potato ‘milk’ is the latest trend it seems in the battle for market share of the traditional cow’s milk market.

A Swedish company is already selling it in the UK and it has hit Irish shelves, with 1L selling for €2.95.

Given it’s up against deliciously tropical-sounding coconut ‘milk’ and nutty-tasting almond ‘milk’, potato ‘milk’ could have an uphill battle to muscle into the plant-based drinks market. Or will it?

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Potato milk

Potato milk

Potato milk

The latest figures from the National Milk Agency (NMA) show that consumption of cow’s milk in Ireland continues to decline, on an individual basis and also as a nation, even as the population passes the 5m mark for the first time since 1841.

However, plant-based food is one of the biggest diet trends of recent times and plant-based ‘milk’ accounted for 15pc of milk sales in shops in 2020.

And it’s a market that’s still growing, with the global market for dairy alternatives predicted to grow 15pc year over the coming years.

Ireland may be one of the most environmentally sustainable places to produce dairy, but are we not missing a trick when it comes to thinking outside the box too?

One of the great success stories of the Irish dairy industry has been its ability to retain ownership of popular consumer brands such as Kerrygold butter and Avonmore milk.

However, in the burgeoning plant-based market there is the danger that corporate entities will be in control and not the primary food producers.

National consumption of fresh milk last year was 563m litres, a decrease of 3m litres or 1pc on 2020. Nothing too drastic, but a decline nonetheless as the population of the country increased. What would the decline have been if our population had remained static since 2016?

It’s great for the dairy industry here that Irish consumers continue to have one of the highest per-capita consumptions of fresh drinking milk in the world, with an annual consumption of 112L per capita in 2021, and it should continue to be promoted.

In the NMA’s annual report, there is just one reference to plant-based alternatives and no real detail on the market.

Is ignoring plant-based products because they’re seen as ‘the enemy’ not a short-sighted strategy?

Like it or not, there has been a significant swing towards plant-based everything, and it doesn’t seem to be halting.

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