ARNHEM, THE NETHERLANDS — Dairy alternative drinks are differentiating themselves in the health category, calling out claims that correspond with current consumer trends.
Over 90% of dairy alternative drinks launched in 2015 — which represented 6% of total global dairy launches recorded by Innova Market Insights — were marketed on a health platform of some kind. The most popular claim caters to consumers seeking free-from foods. “Lactose free,” which appeared on more than 47% of introductions, was up from about one-third in 2011. This stems from improved allergen labeling, Innova said, as well as an increasing awareness of lactose intolerance and desire for free-from foods in general.
|Lu Ann Williams, director of innovation at Innova|
“The dairy alternative drinks market is booming, and further growth is expected with growing interest in dairy-free and lactose-free products as a lifestyle choice, rather than simply an option for those with allergies and intolerances,” said Lu Ann Williams, director of innovation at Innova.
Consumer interest in clean labels boosted the use of “natural” and “no additives/preservatives” claims in the category to 36%, Innova said. That number climbs to nearly 64% if organic claims are included.
The G.M.O. labeling movement has driven a spike in non-G.M.O. claims on no-dairy milk drinks in the United States, with nearly half of launches in the country carrying non-G.M.O. claims as opposed to less than a quarter globally.
The need for contrast within the category has grown along with the popularity of dairy alternative drinks and the sheer amount of them in the market, Innova said.
“The non-dairy milk drinks market has seen considerable development in recent years,” Ms. Williams said. “Its initial spread from traditional markets in Asia to the West was via specialist health-food outlets, but in recent years it has moved more squarely into the mainstream and grown beyond its reliance on soy to a whole range of other plant-based foods, led by nuts and grains.”
Soy milk started the trend of health claim marketing in the non-dairy milk segment, Innova said, but its place as the common category mainstay has been waning as more companies seek to differentiate through ingredients as well as health claims. Sixty per cent of launches in 2015 featured soy milk as the main or secondary ingredient, according to Innova, but that number has plummeted nearly 15% since 2011. Several brands instead opted for almond, as Innova reported that almond milk starred in more than 28% of launches in recent years, ahead of rice, coconut and oat milks.
Royal Hawaiian Orchards decided to stray from soy to the Macadamia nut for its new line of Macadamia nut milks, available in sweetened and unsweetened original and vanilla varieties.
Along with the shift away from soy, Innova said the market has seen a stronger move of dairy alternative drinks out of the white milks sub-category and into flavored varieties, with complex flavors and blends increasing on the shelves.
“The non-dairy milk drinks market has seen considerable development in recent years in the light of rising interest in lactose and dairy free options,” Ms. Williams said. “In the move to offer something new, we are also starting to see not only a wide variety of increasingly sophisticated flavor options, but also blends of milks from different sources.”
For example, Blue Diamond bet on blends with its launch of Almond Breeze Almondmilk Cashewmilk Blends last fall. The Sacramento, Calif.-based company offers the beverages in sweetened and unsweetened original and vanilla varieties.
Denver-based WhiteWave Foods tapped into both the flavor and the blend trend with its addition to its Silk lineup of dairy alternative products. Nutchello, WhiteWave’s new range of nut-based beverages, is available in three varieties: rich dark chocolate and walnuts, toasted coconut and cashews, and caramel almonds and cashews.
Brands on display at Natural Products Expo West, held March 10-13 in Anaheim, Calif., included Nutraw Milk raw organic cold-pressed pistachio milk, and Veggemo, a non-dairy beverage containing pea protein, potato and tapioca starch. The latter, from Richmond, B.C.-based Global Gardens Group, is shelf-stable and available in original, unsweetened and vanilla varieties.