DUIVEN, THE NETHERLANDS — The alternative dairy beverage market is seeing significant development, according to Innova Market Insights, and options for dairy alternatives are expanding beyond soy.

Innova said alternative dairy beverages represented 5% of total dairy launches recorded during the last year. The development in the market is being driven by increasing popularity in western countries where it is moving out of the specialty health food segment and into the mainstream.

Soy milks have the greatest share in this market and still may be found in 78% of dairy alternative beverage launches as a primary or secondary ingredient. Yet there has been interest in using other plant-based alternatives such as rice, oats, barley, almonds, hazelnuts and walnuts.

Rice was the second most popular dairy alternative ingredient as it was featured in 17% of introductions. Oats were found in 11% of introductions and almonds were found in 10%. Innova said while non-dairy milk alternatives are still a small market outside Asia, purchase levels are increasing rapidly in some countries.

“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 Lu Ann Williams, head of research at Innova. “This trend seems set to continue with an increasing variety of products being made available.”

Almond milks are growing in popularity as they have increased from being featured in just 3% of alternative dairy beverages in 2005 to being in 10% of such beverages in 2012. Blends also have become popular with manufacturers using soy and rice or multi-grain combinations. For example, during the past year Hain Celestial expanded its dairy-free brand with Dream Blends, featuring almonds, cashews and hazelnuts.

These products often are marketed on a health platform with the most popular claims being lactose-free, organic ingredients, low cholesterol or additive- and preservative-free. Calcium is the ingredient most commonly used for fortification of these products, and heart-health claims have diminished in this category due to concerns about regulatory intervention and the validity of the claims.