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Voluntary Standards for the Labeling of Plant-Based Milks in the United States

The Plant Based Foods Association has developed voluntary standards to promote consistency in labeling across the plant-based milk category.

In May 2017, PBFA formed a standards committee consisting of leaders of PBFA member companies that represent a cross-section of plant-based alternatives, including milks.

The committee’s work began with a consumer study which provided guidance and a starting point. The study of more than 1,000 milk consumers made a few things clear:

  • Consumers are not confused about what they are buying when they purchase plant-based milk. In fact, over four in ten households are purposefully buying both plant-based and cow’s milk.
  • Nearly two-thirds of consumers surveyed consider plant-based milks to be milk.
  • Alternative names for plant-based milks—such as “drinks” or “beverages”—are not preferred by consumers. These terms are more frequently associated with products such as soft drinks and alcohol than the stuff you put in your coffee, cereal, or smoothie.

PBFA’s standards suggest that plant-based milk labels should:

  • Contain the characterizing ingredient or ingredients + milk as part of the name (i.e., almond milk, or walnut-cashew milk), or alternatively….
  • Be clearly labeled as “plant-based milk,” along with the main ingredient.
  • Prominently contain the words “dairy-free” or “non-dairy”, as these were the phrases that resonated the most from our consumer survey.

Survey Methods

An online survey was conducted from October 23rd to November 3rd, 2017 with 1,006 U.S. consumers who purchased cow’s milk, plant-based milk, or both within the past 12 months. The sample was balanced to be representative based on geography, age, gender, income and ethnicity. The research was fielded by FlexMR with design and analysis support from PBFA affiliate member Michele DeKinder-Smith of the Free From Forum.