Almond milk

So long soy! Almond milk now fastest-growing alternative dairy beverage

Led by rising sales of almond milk, the US market for dairy alternative beverages reached $1.33 billion in 2011, according to a new report from Packaged Facts. The report states that as consumers seek out healthier substitutes for dairy drinks, many are increasingly turning toward consumption of soy milk, almond milk, and rice milk.

The growing popularity of dairy alternative beverages comes as consumption of cow’s milk continues to decline. The report states that the average per-capita consumption of cow’s milk fell from 91.8 litres per person in 1994 to 78.6 litres per person in 2008, according to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) data.

David Sprinkle, the publisher of Packaged Facts, noted that consumers are seeking out plant-based dairy alternatives for a variety of health reasons including lactose intolerance and milk allergies. Additionally, dairy alternative beverages are popular among vegans, vegetarians and individuals concerned about the antibiotics or growth hormones often found in cow’s milk.

Almond milk posted the biggest dollar sales gains among all dairy alternative beverages in 2011. Sales of almond milk increased by 79 percent last year and the drink now accounts for 21 percent of the retail market for dairy alternative beverages. The report states 9 percent of US adults consume almond milk and most are drinking the beverage somewhat more often or much more often than they were five years ago.

However, the report states that soymilk remains the most popular type of dairy alternative beverage primarily because of the health benefits associated with the drink. Eleven percent of US adults now consume soymilk on a regular basis, and Packaged Facts survey data shows that 54 percent of US adults who purchase soymilk do so because of its overall nutritional value.

Another 43 percent of adult consumers drink soymilk because of “nutritional advantages related to specific personal or household health concerns.”

Dairy alternative beverages are also growing in a variety of formulations. The report indicates that products with flavoured, sweetened, unsweetened, low-fat or non-fat, heath-specific, and fortified varieties are becoming more prevalent in the marketplace.

Additionally, a number of private-label brands that claim to have the same formulations as branded products, are now commanding the premium shelf space in refrigerated and aseptic versions.

New Nutrition Business on almond milk:

Almond growers and marketers have been particularly successful in communicating the intrinsic healthfulness of their nuts. As a result, almonds have become one of the most popular “health halo” ingredients. This in turn set the stage for the debut of almond milk, which has exploded in the US, with sales soaring from zero to more than $160 million in less than three years, despite selling at a premium price (equivalent to soy milk and three times the price of dairy milk).

It’s of no interest to consumers that some criticize almond milk for having little of the nutritional value of fresh almonds. After years of marketing and positive media coverage, in the mind of the consumer the almond’s health halo is rock solid.

From New Nutrition Business’s 10 Key Trends in Food, Nutrition & Health 2012