Britons already eat potatoes boiled, baked, roasted and mashed but now the humble spud is being milked for all its worth, with potato milk set to be the next big thing.
It is tipped as a challenger to big selling alt-milks made from oats, almonds and soy, with the supermarket Waitrose predicting consumers will soon be adding it to their shopping trolley or ordering potato milk lattes in coffee shops.
Sales of plant milk are booming in the UK with the market now worth about £400m a year as Britons reduce their consumption of animal products. In recent years the buzz has been around oat milk, thanks to the success of the fashionable Swedish brand Oatly, but in its annual food and drink report Waitrose predicts that “now it is the turn of the potato”.
Alice Shrubsall, the supermarket’s alternative milk buyer, said more people were incorporating plant-based milks in their diet, whether that involved a “splash of oat milk in their morning coffee or a coconut milk hot chocolate in the afternoon”. In response to the growing interest being shown by consumers, she said the retailer was planning to expand its alt-milk range to include potato milk.
In February, Waitrose will start stocking the Swedish potato milk brand Dug which is owned by the startup Veg of Lund. Dug claims to be the most sustainable alt-milk on the market with its formula based on research by Prof Eva Tornberg at Lund University. It says the potato milk tastes delicious and creamy, and it has also created a foaming barista version that “won’t ever separate in your coffee or tea”.
The Waitrose report, which is based on analysis of its sales data for the past 12 months as well as a poll of 2,000 consumers, also points to the rise of a new diet regime it calls “climatarianism”. Nearly 70% of those surveyed said the carbon footprint of their food was either “very” or “somewhat” important to them. A “5:2” diet, which involves eating vegetarian meals five days a week, was also becoming more popular.
The exercise also highlights the growing influence of social media platforms such as TikTok and Instagram on UK food culture. Three-quarters of the 18- to-24-year-olds who Waitrose spoke to used the sites for food inspiration during lockdown, while one in 12 people across all age groups posted a picture of their food on social media – or sent a snap to a friend – in the day leading up to its poll.
Viral recipes are now a clear influence on sales, it says. In the spring pesto was in demand when pesto eggs were all the rage on TikTok, while this autumn sales of air fryers, used to make the new comfort food pasta chips, have taken off at Waitrose’s sister chain John Lewis.
While the lockdowns may be over, for some people they have resulted in permanent lifestyle changes. Nearly half of those polled said they planned to go out less. But that is not to say they are living like hermits. They told Waitrose they are planning dinner parties or making use of gardens where one in 10 had installed an outdoor bar.