Booming plant-based drinks market set for more category innovation

By Mary Ellen Shoup

- Last updated on GMT

An increased variety of dairy alternative drinks are being introduced to the market. ©iStock/miwa_in_oz
An increased variety of dairy alternative drinks are being introduced to the market. ©iStock/miwa_in_oz

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The explosive growth of the dairy alternative drinks market is driven by increased demand from consumers who do not want to fully commit to a plant-based diet but prefer to “pick and choose” to suit their lifestyle, according to Innova Market Insights.

The global market for dairy alternative drinks is expected to reach $16.3bn in 2018, up from $7.4bn in 2010, according to Innova. 

“The dairy alternatives market has seen rising levels of interest in recent years, spurred mainly by consumers increasingly looking for lactose-free, dairy-free and plant-based/vegan options as healthy lifestyle choices, rather than regarding them as simply for those with allergies or intolerances,”​ Lu Ann Williams, director of innovation at Innova Market Insights, said.

“The category has been further boosted by the growing availability and promotion of plant-based options to traditional dairy lines, particularly beverages, but also cultured products such as yogurt, frozen desserts and ice cream, creamers and cheese.”

Expansions via acquisition and key markets

Significant developments in the plant based beverage category include the acquisition of WhiteWave​, allowing dairy giant Danone to further invest and increase share in the plant-based dairy alternatives market.

In another key region, Want Want, one of Greater China’s leading food processing companies, recently announced its expansion into soy and other plant-based beverages. China is enjoying particularly strong growth for dairy alternative drinks, with a CAGR of 18.7% forecast between 2010 and 2018, reaching a market value of $6.7bn, compared with a more modest CAGR of 10% in the US.

Increased product variety

New plant-based beverage launches grew at a CAGR of 20% between 2012 and 2016 and vegan positioning in global food and beverage launches tripled from 2012 to 2016.

“There has been ongoing launch activity for a range of increasingly sophisticated flavors and blends of non-dairy milks from different sources,”​ Williams said.

 “In the move to offer something new, we are starting to see an increasing variety of non-soy plant-based alternatives, including cereals such as rice, oats and barley, and nuts – such as almonds, hazelnuts and macadamias – as well as more unusual options such as hemp and flaxseed,” ​she added.

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