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Emerging trend of dairy-free almond milk

While the dairy-free market continues to be dominated in most countries by soya milk, signs are starting to show that newer alternatives are breaking into the mainstream grocery sector. These alternatives have so far been based on ingredients such as rice, oats, but more recently, almonds.

During 2010, over 600 dairy alternatives were recorded on the Innova Database as having been introduced on to the market. Almond milk and milk blends accounted for just over 8%.

While the number of dairy alternative drinks launched was at a similar level to that in 2009, the share of almond lines was up from 6%, which in itself was double the 3% penetration of almond products five years previously in 2005.

Outside Asia, non-dairy milk alternatives still remain a relatively small market overall. But with a growing awareness of allergy and intolerance issues and the low-fat, low-calorie and cholesterol-free positioning of many of the products, purchase levels are rising.

Despite this growth in dairy-alternative, soya is facing problems in some developed markets, particularly the USA, following recent health scares. The result in some instances has been a move to non-soya milk alternatives, including those made with ingredients such as rice, hemp, oats and coconut, as well as almonds and other nuts.

The fact is that almond milks have been available in health food stores for many years. However, it is their emergence into the mainstream market that has been most notable of late. The USA has led this trend, with nearly one-fifth of the 2010 dairy alternative drink launches being almond milk or almond milk blends. Sales of almond milk in the USA saw double-digit growth in 2010, while sales of soya milk fell by a similar percentage.

The Head of Research at Innova Market Insights, Lu Ann Williams, has commented that, “Competition in the non-dairy milk sector has been ramped up as two mainstream brands have introduced chilled versions of almond-based products into grocery outlets alongside the original ambient products, previously found primarily in more specialist stores”. 

Williams added that, “The fight for dominance between the two players, both part of major companies, has not only grown their sales, but also promoted overall awareness of the product, further encouraging development of smaller brands and retailer own-labels”. 

White Wave, which is a subsidiary of Dean Food, launched PureAlmond, sold under its Silk branding, which is more usually associated with soya milk. PureAlmond has been releases with a number of flavour variants, particularly vanilla, but also original and unsweetened options.

Blue Diamond Growers, a Californian nut co-operative, is using its own almonds in its new range of AlmondBreeze dairy-free milk drinks. And like PureAlmond, it also has alternative flavours, such as vanilla, original and unsweetened.

Hain Celestial’s Almond Dream drink was relaunched in early 2010 in Original and Unsweetened variants. Natural foods specialist, Pacific Foods, which includes nut and grain milks within its varied product range, also relaunched its organic Almond drinks range and now also includes reduced-sugar options. The growing development of the market in the USA was further illustrated by the arrival of WholeFoods Market’s own-brand almond milk in the summer of 2010.

In Europe, almond milk is still largely confined to specialist health food stores, although there are signs of a growing interest in the mainstream markets. Over 10% of dairy alternative drinks launched in Europe during 2010 were either almond or rice & almond blends. Multinational brand EcoMil from Nutriops is now available in 15 countries, both in powdered and ready-to-drink form.

The market is extending further with almond and rice blends, such as Vitariz Organic Rice Drink with Almond, from Alinor in the Netherlands; organic options, such as Isola Bio Delice Riso Mandorla in Italy; retailer own-brand launches, such as Carrefour’s organic almond and rice milk in France; light products, such as Condorelli’s Latte di Mandorla Light in Italy, sweetened with acesulfam-K and sucralose; and fortified products with calcium from EcoMil in a number of countries, including some targeted specifically at the breakfast market.  All of these were launched in 2010.

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