Plant-based alternatives vs dairy milk: Consumer segments and their sensory, emotional, cognitive and situational use responses to tasted products

Armand V. Cardello, Fabien Llobell, Davide Giacalone, Christina M. Roigard, Sara R. Jaeger*

*Corresponding author for this work

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Plant-based alternatives to dairy milk are becoming more popular in many parts of the world. The present research explored this product category using a multi-variable research strategy where consumers from New Zealand (n = 345) tasted samples for degree of liking/disliking and described their perceived sensory, emotional/cognitive and situational use characteristics using check-all-that-apply (CATA) questions. A total of 10 products were included in the study, three of which were dairy-based (cow's milk, two at 3.4% fat and one at 0.1% fat), while the remaining seven products were a blend of three plant-based ingredients (coconut, rice and oats) or made from either soy, oat, rice or cashew nuts (including variations for sweetened/unsweetened products and reduced-fat products). Across all participants, the full-fat dairy milks were most liked, but heterogeneity was apparent, especially for the plant-based alternatives. Four consumer segments were identified that fell along a continuum from those people who exclusively liked full-fat dairy products (n = 107) to those who preferred a wide range of plant-based products (n = 111), with two smaller intermediary clusters, Dairy and tri-blend Likers (n = 55) and Full-fat dairy / tri-blend / soy Likers (n = 72). Each cluster had distinct and characterising sensory, emotional/cognitive and situational uses for the tested dairy and plant-based beverages, and penalty/lift analysis was used to determine how these positively or negatively impacted product liking. The penalty/lift analysis was supplemented with a test that for each CATA term (sensory, emotional/cognitive, situational use) enabled a comparison of the four clusters to understand for which of these the effect on liking scores was larger/smaller. Overall, the present research contributed new knowledge for plant-based beverages (which remain understudied relative to plant-based meat alternatives) by providing detailed product insights into a broad range of tasted samples, showing that complex consumer preference segmentation exists, driven by a combination of sensory, emotional/cognitive, and situational use perceptions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104599
JournalFood Quality and Preference
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 Elsevier Ltd


  • Beverages
  • Consumer research
  • Milk alternatives
  • New Zealand
  • Penalty/lift analysis
  • Plant-based
  • Product tasting


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