A new report from market analysts Organic Monitor stresses the fact that new entrants in this competitive market are up against tough challenges to gain market share.
The UK has the largest non-dairy sector in Europe, valued at €71 million in 2002.
"Although the UK market continues healthy expansion, it is dominated by Alpro whose aggressive business strategies will ensure there remains a big difference between market entry and market success," claims the report.
Despite this, increasing penetration Hain Celestial recently launched a new look for its product Rice Dream, the leading brand of rice drinks in the UK.
But rice and oat-based drinks are trailing behind sales of the soaring soy drinks market that dominate Europe's €228 million non-dairy drinks market in 2002, accounting for 86 per cent of total volumes, a percentage that might be nearer to around 95 per cent, thanks to a substantial widening of the soy drink category.
Bottlegreen Drinks, a producer of juices and cordials, launched Tiger White positioned as a soya-free alternative.
The non-dairy beverage is inspired by the Spanish drink horchata de chufa, and is made from tigernut, a tuber that grows on the roots of a sedge plant in southern Spain.
The latest entrant to the dairy alternative market is Lasco Europe which started producing soya drinks in September 2004 - chilled soya drinks are the fastest growing segment in the non-dairy drinks category.
Lasco Europe has secured a deal with the Compass Group to supply Shaky soya drinks to 400 secondary schools in England and Wales. The firm has plans to launch the product in the multiples; according to Organic Monitor the drink has already made inroads into the cash and carry and wholesale trade.
And spearing growth in the dairy alternatives market was the launch of chilled soya drinks under supermarket private labels, says Organic Monitor. All the multiples now offer soya drinks alongside fresh milk in their chilled cabinets.
The alternative market must compete against dairy, one of the fastest growing organic categories, with 2004 sales up on the previous year by 12.5 per cent. Organic milk and yoghurt are said to be the segments reporting the highest levels of growth, with sales of organic dairy products set to remain buoyant throughout 2005.