8 Plant-Based Dairy Products Generating Retail Velocity

After several years of almond and soy milk dominating the convenience channe's nondairy beverage segment, several niche formulations have resulted in selection, intrigue and consumer trial.

These days, almond milk is still ascending across dollar and unit sales in multiple retail channels, while soy milk has fallen on harder times. Oat and pea milks are showing robust sales while cashew and coconut milks have seen modest performance.

According to Chicago-based Mintel’s Dairy and Non-Dairy Milk U.S. 2018 report, sales of nondairy milk reached an estimated $2.3 billion in 2018, representing growth of 52% from 2013. Mintel predicts sales of nondairy milk will reach $3.1 billion by 2023, marking a compound annual growth rate of 6.7% from 2018 to 2023.

While almond milk dominates the nondairy milk market—sales for multiunit outlets represent 64% of the entire nondairy milk market—​“other” formulations have grown by 515% since 2013​.

Sales of soy milk have fallen dramatically and now account for less than 12% of the nondairy milk market, because most soy-milk drinkers have already made the switch to almond or other nondairy milks, according to Mintel. “The negative perceptions surrounding soy makes it unlikely that the soy milk market will attract new consumers,” the report said.

Coconut milk represents “a small yet growing segment of the market, as it’s likely benefiting by the overall trendiness of coconuts in the food and beverage industries (i.e., coconut water and coconut as a flavor/ingredient in foods/drinks)," the report said. "However, coconut milk brands may experience a slight sales slowdown due to the growing popularity of other non-dairy milks.”

While ​most consumers are buying the same amount of dairy and nondairy milks, some switching behaviors are affecting each respective category, Mintel said.

For example​, 60% of consumers who are buying more dairy milk are also buying more nondairy milk, according to the research. Only 7% of those buying more dairy milk are buying ​less nondairy milk. Among consumers buying less dairy milk, ​56% are switching to more nondairy milk ​and 19% are dropping out of the milk market entirely, according to Mintel.

Overall, 3% of dairy milk consumers are buying ​less ​dairy milk and more nondairy milk. While 3% is low, other dairy milk consumers are merely buying less milk in general, and many dairy milk consumers are still buying it but using it less frequently, according to Mintel.

Mike Fogarty, owner of Denver-based Choice Market, expects food company R&D teams to continue to push plant-based ingredients to more fully serve the dairy segment. “We’ve had these products from day one, and we’ve seen the splits that have occurred in migrating people from traditional dairy to plant-based options,” Fogarty said. “The quality of the (nondairy milk) products speak for themselves. We have a 2,500-square-foot store, so there’s not a lot of space to design an elaborate endcap or compelling signage. We highlight products on our social-media feed, and I think many of the CPG brands have done a great job making these products stand apart from the crowd—they are serving as their own billboards.”

Click through for eight nondairy offerings that are helping to ignite the segment.

Photograph: Shutterstock

Pea milk is positioning itself as the pinnacle of healthy across nondairy beverages. Ripple Foods’ pea-based milk contains eight times the protein of almond milk and half the sugar of dairy milk, and is also high in bioavailable calcium (50% more than milk) and potassium, according to the Emeryville, Calif.-based company. Ripple Foods is now offering 12-ounce bottles of its product at 7-Eleven stores, according to Liz King, director of marketing for Ripple Foods. “We’re looking to be in more stores (and additional chains) starting in 2020,” she said. Speaking to the power of social media to drive sales, King said Ripple Foods leverages its social platforms to highlight product availability at 7-Eleven.

“We’ve found that social media and digital activations can be just as effective as traditional POS signage and display,” she said.

Anthony Perrine, owner of Kenosha, Wis.-based Lou Perrine’s Gas & Grocery, said he has scaled back significantly on dairy milk due to almost $4-per-gallon price points and shifting consumer health priorities. His go-to options for several years across the nondairy sector have been Silk’s various soy milks, and he recently added Blue Diamond Almondmilk Blended with Real Bananas from Blue Diamond Growers, Sacramento, Calif.


Stok Cold Brew recently launched Stok Oatmilk Latte and Stok Almondmilk Mocha. These new dairy-free creamed coffees are brewed low and slow in a 10-hour process. Stok Oatmilk Latte contains 135 milligrams of caffeine per 12-ounce serving, while Stok Almondmilk Mocha contains 130 milligrams of caffeine and 15 grams of sugar per 12-ounce serving.

Nescafe, from Nestle USA, Arlington, Va., recently launched Nescafe Coffee Protein Smoothie and Nescafe Cold Whipped Latte. The smoothie offers plant-based coffee protein made with 100% Colombian Arabica coffee, oats and almond butter. An 11-ounce single-serve bottle has 15 grams of protein and is available in Banana or Mocha for an SRP of $3.49. The latte unlocks layers of froth and foam to deliver a coffee-shop experience, the company said.

Califia Farms’ Ubermilk is a line of oat milk delivering protein and other essential nutrients in Unsweetened, Unsweetened Vanilla and Chocolate flavors. The beverage contains 8 grams of plant-based protein per serving and all eight essential amino acids and fatty acids from plant oils for omegas 3, 6 and 9, the company said. It joins Califia Farms’ single-serve Protein Almondmilks, which come in Choc‐a‐Maca and Maca-’Nilla flavors, both of which contain 8 grams of plant-based protein from peas and brown rice, as well as 1,000 milligrams of Peruvian maca.

Chicago-based Quaker Oats muscled into the segment this year with the launch of Oat Beverage. Quaker uses a fine milling process to isolate the oat bran, rich in heart-healthy beta-glucan, which allows it to make a heart-health claim on the packaging that the brand team hopes serves as a differentiator, said Koen Burghouts, Quaker’s vice president of innovation.

A sugar-free, USDA-certified organic dairy alternative, Mooala Organic Coconut Oatmilk from Mooala Brands, Dallasm was created with toasted oats blended with coconut cream and a hint of cinnamon. With no added sugar and 50 calories per serving, the beverage contains as much calcium as a glass of dairy milk, offering 30% of the daily value in an 8-ounce serving. C-store retailer Fogarty is bullish on oat milk as an asset within his Choice Market store for its “flexibility, as it pairs well with lattes and is also good for yogurt blends," he said. "I think it’s evolving, and it comes down to the high-quality flavor profile.” He cited Mooala as one of the nondairy drivers in his metro Denver location.


White Plains, N.Y.-based Danone North America recently expanded its portfolio of Silk Oat Yeah oatmilk with Silk Oat Yeah Oatmilk Yogurt Alternatives, combining gluten-free oats with live and active cultures in four flavors: Vanilla, Mixed Berry, Strawberry and Mango. Ricky Hamm, vice president of sales, convenience channel for Danone NA, said consumer motivations for plant-based eating include “managing food sensitivities, environmental and ethical reasons—such as sustainability, animal welfare and transparency—weight management and general health and wellness.”