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Dairy alternative drinks move into the mainstream

By Caroline Scott-Thomas , 09-Jan-2013

Dairy alternative drinks are moving out of the specialist health food sector and into the mainstream – and it’s not all about soy anymore, according to market research firm Innova Market Insights.

New data from the research firm suggest that soy is still a main or secondary ingredient in nearly four of every five (78%) new dairy alternative drink launches worldwide, but other ingredients are on the up, including milk-style products from rice, oats and barley, or from nuts like almonds, hazelnuts and walnuts.

“Within the overall dairy alternative drinks sector, soy is facing some problems with regard to health scares and the result, in many instances, has been a move to other, non-soy plant-based alternatives,” said head of research at Innova Market Insights LuAnn Williams. “This trend seems set to continue with an increasing variety of products being made available.”

According to Innova, rice was the second most popular ingredient for dairy alternative drinks after soy, at 17% of new product launches in the 12 months to October 2012, followed by oats at 11% and almonds at 10% – and blends of ingredients, such as soy and rice, have also increased in popularity.

Almond milks in particular have seen a surge in popularity, and are beginning to take off in Europe, following a spate of successful launches in the United States in 2010 and 2011.

The most popular positioning for dairy alternative drinks highlights lactose-free formulation. About 10% of the European population is thought to be lactose intolerant, compared to as many as 95% of the population in parts of Asia, where there is a strong market for non-dairy milk alternatives. Globally, about 35% of dairy alternative drinks are labelled as lactose-free, rising to 50% in Europe and North America.

Other popular product positionings include the use of organic ingredients, highlighting low cholesterol levels, and clean label additive-free and preservative-free claims.

The researcher’s latest data show that dairy alternatives accounted for about 5% of total dairy launches in the year to October 2012.

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