Traditionally soymilk held the strongest position in this category, making up 78% of dairy alternative launches either as a main or secondary ingredient. However, alternatives such as rice, oats, barley, almonds, hazelnuts and walnuts are making headway in the non-dairy segment. Rice was the second most popular ingredient after soy, but at a considerable distance, featuring in 17% of introductions. This is ahead of oats at 11% and almonds at 10%. The popularity of almond milks has also continued to grow, with global launches reaching 10% from just 3% in 2005. As a result of the increased sales of almond milks in the U.S. in 2010 and 2011, a rise in interest was reported in Europe, particularly in the UK, in 2012.
Innova also reports a growing trend of combining dairy alternatives, such as soy and rice, or multi-grain options, in product offerings. The move towards the combination of different non-dairy ingredient sources has been developing in recent years, lead by popularity in the U.S.
Three-quarters of launches for dairy alternative drinks featured a health claim of some kind, with most popular positionings relating to lactose-free formulations, the use of organic ingredients, a low cholesterol content and an additive- and preservative-free “clean-label” image. Over 35% of global introductions featured lactose-free labeling, rising to over 50% in North America and Europe.
Within the “active” health or fortified arena, the use of added vitamins and minerals, particularly calcium, was the most commonly used claim. Heart health claims, once frequently used to market soymilk, particularly in the U.S., are no longer as popular. This reflects regulatory concerns over claims, as well as disputes over their validity. About 6.5% of launches featured heart health claims in the 12 months to the end of October 2012, which was lower than the level of claims for digestive and gut health, at 7.5%.