There’s a change brewing in the coffee industry
The plant-based milk industry has been booming recently, the market growing year after year even as the dairy industry falters. Plant milks now represent 40+% of all milk sold, its rise fueled in large part by younger generations who are eco-minded and racially diverse.1,2 Coffeeshops are adapting accordingly. To keep up with the demand for non-dairy, coffeeshops are moving beyond merely offering plant-based milks as an option. They’re flipping the norm and serving plant milks as the default. This phenomenon is emerging worldwide, from Birch Coffee in New York to LinkedIn’s offices in San Francisco to Starbucks in Shanghai. You can flip the default too!
Start with the coffee you serve:
- at committee meetings
- in your house of worship
- at the office
- during soccer practice
- at a potluck dinner
- in campus dining halls
- at HOA meetings
If you’re making drinks for others, use oatmilk as your base. If you’re stocking the office fridge, stock up on plant milks instead of half-and-half. If you’re putting out creamers at a party, proudly display the plant milks (and if you know some folks will want dairy, let them know it’s still available; it just doesn’t need to be the star!).
Even if you’re just making coffee for yourself and your family, drop the cow from your cortado, and make your morning cup plant-based by default.
What if you get your coffee from a coffeeshop? Totally fine—your local businesses can flip the default, and you can help! Americans drink 60 million lattes3 every year, and specialty beverages like lattes usually come from quick service restaurants and cafes. Local shops are owned by real people who live right in your community, and they care about what customers want.
Start a conversation with your local coffeeshop, campus cafe, office manager, or hospitality committee. Let them know that an easy way to be inclusive of non-dairy clients (without taking away dairy options) is to flip to a non-dairy default—automatically making lattes and cappuccinos with oatmilk instead of cow’s milk, instead of by special request.
It’s in their best interest to go plant-based.
Put simply, businesses can sell coffee to more people if they replace dairy:
- 30-50 million Americans experience some degree of lactose intolerance.4
- Lactose intolerance is tied to race; people of Asian, African, Hispanic, and indigenous heritage are far more likely to be lactose intolerant than white Europeans.4
- 30 percent of Millennials are trying to eat more plant-based foods. Among Gen Z, that number rockets to 60 percent.5
You can also mention that flipping the default from dairy to plant milk can help businesses meet their sustainability goals. When Portland coffeeshop Guilder removed its dairy default, vegan coffees became 18% more popular, reducing Guilder’s carbon footprint by 12%. After all, just one non-dairy latte saves 0.143 kg of carbon dioxide. That adds up quickly! Meanwhile, Onyx Coffee Lab’s favorite part of implementing an oatmilk default is the lower energy bill.6 They save electricity by using shelf-stable milks that don’t require refrigeration like cow’s milk does. Saving money on electricity while getting to serve more customers? Sounds like a recipe for success.
One-half of Americans drink coffee everyday. That’s millions of opportunities to rethink ritual, choose inclusion, and usher in a more sustainable future. Start your morning off right. Flip the script on your flat white, and make your coffee default veg.
Have a great idea you want to share? Need help implementing a plantmilk default?
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12021 U.S. Retail Market Insights: Plant-Based Foods. Good Food Institute.
2Teens Drink 550 Percent More Vegan Milk Than Gen X. VegNews. 2017.
3NCA Releases Atlas of American Coffee. National Coffee Association. 2020.
4Lactose Intolerance: Information for Health Care Providers. Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. 2006.
5Consumer Insights. Plant Based Foods Association. n.d.
6Switching to Oat Milk – And Upping Sustainability. Urnex. 2021.