- Conventional milk is still the cream of the dairy crop globally. But plant-based dairy alternatives are seeing rapid growth, while making up only 6% of total global dairy product launches in 2015, according to Innova Market Insights.
- While dairy alternatives were once mainly dominated by soy milks, almond and other nut milks are grabbing a larger piece of the market share. Soy milk's share has dropped from almost three-quarters of launches in 2011 to 60% in 2015, while almond milks have boosted their share to more than 28% of new launches as of last year.
- Health benefits are part of dairy alternatives' appeal. More than 90% of dairy alternatives launched in 2015 were positioned with a health claim, including lactose-free (over 47%) and claims about natural ingredients and being additive/preservative free (36%, or 64% including organics).
Non-GMO is another major selling point for dairy alternatives. This is more so in the U.S., where nearly half of launches in 2015 included the non-GMO claim. That's compared to less than a quarter globally and 11% in the EU, where GMOs have to be labeled.
As consumers' voice concerns about allergens and intolerances, manufacturers of dairy alternatives are positioning and advertising their products as healthy solutions.
Hain Celestial, maker of WestSoy, Soy Dream, and Rice Dream, and WhiteWave Foods, maker of Silk and So Delicious, have been on the winning side of strong growth in the dairy alternatives category. Hain grew by double digits for 20 consecutive quarters before the first fiscal quarter of 2016, and since, growth has remained steady in the high single digits. WhiteWave recently reported its second consecutive quarter with more than $1 billion in sales, including a 12.5% jump for full-year 2015. Plant-based beverages have been key to these companies' growth as they increasingly become major players in the industry.
Conventional milk maker Dean Foods has increased profitability significantly in the past year. The company reported a 371.4% increase year over year in its most recent quarter, and CEO Gregg Tanner's 2015 compensation soared 138.8% after exceeding EBITDA targets. However, revenues have declined, including 15.8% last quarter, as competition from dairy alternatives ramps up.
Wal-Mart recently announced plans to build a dairy processing plant, which will cut Dean Foods' private-label fluid milk volume by about 100 million gallons. Dean Foods said it remains unfazed as the company shifts to more profitable brands, like Dairy Pure and Tru Moo.