Non-dairy drinks easy pushover for soy?

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Nutrition

A new vegetable-based drink, based on a traditional Spanish recipe,
is being introduced to the fast-growing dairy alternatives sector
in the UK but it may have a tough time competing with soy
beverages, increasingly dominating this category.

It will therefore need to rely significantly on its health benefits, promoting a rich monounsaturated fatty acid content, high vitamin E levels and prebiotic qualities.

Inspired by the classic Spanish drink horchata de chufa, Tiger White is made from ground chufa, also known as tigernut, a tuber that grows on the roots of a sedge plant in southern Spain.

First distributed in health food stores by Tree of Life under the brand name Miam, UK producer of natural fruit-based cordials Bottlegreen Drinks Co​ yesterday introduced the renamed product into the UK's number one supermarket chain Tesco. It will also be in Holland & Barrett stores from the end of July.

Access to leading retailers' customers will significantly help the product's success but Tiger White is unlikely to impact the phenomenal growth of soy drinks.

Already dominating Europe's €228 million non-dairy drinks market in 2002, accounting for 86 per cent of total volumes, this percentage is thought to have increased to around 95 per cent, thanks to a substantial widening of the soy drink category.

"Now you can get different flavours like chocolate, vanilla and strawberry. There are also chilled variants that have developed over the last two years and this is helping the leaders Alpro and So Good to widen appeal to consumers who aren't even lactose intolerant,"​ Amarjit Sahota, market analyst at Organic Monitor, told NutraIngredients.com.

He added that with soy drinks expanding faster than other non-dairy products such as rice drinks and oat or nut-based variants, they will continue to dominate, evolving into their own separate category.

"One of the reasons they are expanding so much is their strong retail penetration in supermarkets,"​ noted Sahota.

Supermarkets are now the most important marketing channel for non-dairy drinks with many launching own-brand soya beverages.

But Sahota added that there is some growth potential for rice and oat drinks with new products being launched this year, such as those from Norwegian company BioSophia.

Like the soy drink makers, the Tiger White​ manufacturers are also aiming for wide consumer appeal, marketing the drink as a 'valuable addition to a Mediterranean diet and lifestyle'.

One and a half servings of Tiger White is said to provide over 28 per cent of the required intake of monounsaturated fatty acids, which currently make up a mere 13.5 per cent of energy intake in the typical British diet. By contrast, Mediterranean populations get 33 per cent of their energy intake from monounsaturated fats and it is this that helps to promote heart health, says the company.

The drink is also an excellent source of vitamin E, the antioxidant thought to combat ageing and age-related disease, and may even have prebiotic qualities, a result of the short chain carbohydrates called oligosaccharides, which feed probiotic bacteria and help to promote intestinal health.

The Mediterranean diet is increasingly being recognised as one of the factors behind the reduced risk of coronary heart disease and some cancers among southern European populations. The expansion of soy drinks has been significantly helped by the research linking soy to healthier cholesterol levels and other non-dairy manufacturers could also gain a boost from an increased consumer interest in health foods.

Processed, blended and packed in Spain, Tiger White is available in one litre Tetra Pak cartons in unsweetened and sweetened formats.

The UK has the largest non-dairy sector in Europe, valued at €71 million in 2002.

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