Alternative milks - rice milkA report by research company IBISWorld showed that the growth rate for alternative milks such as soy and almond milk is outstripping growth for the good old dairy variety. While milk and cream processing grew by an average of 0.2% per year over five years, soy and almond milk production grew by an average of 5.9%.

Soy, oat, rice, coconut and almond milks have been building in market share. Phil Ruthven of IBISWorld attributed their growth to health-consciousness, saying that the alternative milks are typically protein-rich and low in fat and sodium. A growing awareness of food intolerances is also a factor.

However, the alternatives are far from overtaking dairy milk in terms of market share. A 2011 report for Soy Australia Ltd had Aussies drinking three litres of soy milk per capita per year. That’s a long way short of the 106.8 litres per capita of cow’s milk we put away. Among the dairy alternatives, soy leads the way, featuring in 78% of drink launches recorded by Innova Market Insights in the 12 months to October 2012. This was followed by rice milks, with 17%, oats with 11% and almond with 10%.

The spread of these ‘milks’ into supermarkets and cafés isn’t limited to Australia. Internationally, it seems almond milk is growing the fastest and other options are coming onto the market including blended products and even quinoa milk. In the UK, sales have risen by 40% in the past three years. In the USA, by 2011, the market share was 68.7% soy, 21% almond, 7.2% rice and 2.6% coconut. Almond milk sales seemed to be overhauling those of soy milk, with almond the fastest growing category.

Not all alternative milks are created equal. In a review of products on the market, one vegan/health/yoga website, The Compassionate Road, points out that some contain dubious additives, for example: Filtered water, soy protein (this is made from the isolate not a whole bean), corn maltodextrin, sunflower oil, canola oil, cane sugar, calcium, phosphate, magnesium, acidity regulators 332, 450, antioxidant ascorbic acid, Vitamin A, B12, D2, B2,B1, natural flavor.