Most dairy alternatives on Irish shelves are lower in protein than their dairy counterparts, while many are also lower in calcium, a new Safefood report has found.
Plant based alternatives to milk only had a third of the protein content of milk, while two thirds of the products surveyed were not a source of protein.
The calcium content of plant-based alternatives to cheese was also lower.
According to the research which looked at the nutritional content of over 200 alternatives to milk, cheese and yoghurt, 1 in 3 adults (33pc) consume plant-based alternatives to dairy.
It also found that more than four in ten (44pc) people aged 15 to 24 are regular consumers of these products and that 1 in 5 (20pc) chose them because they consider them to be healthier.
Just under one in five (18pc) said they chose dairy alternatives because they “wanted a change/variety” while one in seven (14pc) did so because of their own dairy intolerance or that of a family member.
Half (51pc) of those who consume dairy alternatives agree they are better for the environment.
Safefood is advising people, particularly vegetarians and vegans, to check food labels before buying and look for products containing sources of protein that are unsweetened and fortified with calcium.
“We’ve seen a dramatic rise in both the popularity and number of plant-based alternatives to dairy products available on the market in recent years," said Dr Aileen McGloin, Director of Nutrition with Safefood.
"Our survey found that on average, the protein content for the plant-based products we looked at was less than the dairy products. The calcium content for plant-based milks and yoghurt was the same as their dairy counterparts but was lower for cheese.”
“Because these products vary in nutritional content, I would advise people to check the labels...
"This may be particularly important for those moving to vegetarian or vegan diets."
According to industry estimates, the plant-based dairy alternative market in the UK is worth approximately €284m with the value of sales increasing by 299pc over the previous two years.
Sales of plant-based milks such as almond and oat milk in Ireland increased by 40pc in the 12 months between January 2018 and January 2019 .