The funny thing about soymilk is that it doesn’t even contain milk. While soy is recognized by consumers as being healthy, soymilk still benefits from having “milk” in its name because of the associations between milk and health. Now dairy-based drinks and dairy alternatives are going back to their health roots and providing consumers with more low-fat, low-calorie and fortified options to drive sales.
Refrigerated soymilks and kefirs are at the forefront of dairy alternative beverage sales. The category posted 10 percent sales growth, reaching nearly $529.4 million, for the 52 weeks ending Sept. 7 in food, drug and mass merchandise outlets (excluding Wal-Mart), according to Information Resources Inc., Chicago. Total soymilk and kefir sales are much lower than other beverage categories that are benefiting from the health and wellness consumer trend such as bottled waters, ready-to-drink teas and sports drinks. The segment is growing, at a faster rate than these categories though.
Leading refrigerated soymilk sales is Silk Soymilk from Broomfield, Colo.-based WhiteWave Foods Co., a division of Dean Foods Co. While flagship Silk Soymilk’s sales remained basically flat, it holds half the market share for the refrigerated kefir and soymilk category. Silk Light Soymilk, which offers half the fat and 30 fewer calories than regular Silk, and its newest product Silk Plus Soymilk also ranked in IRI’s top five refrigerated soymilks. Launching in early 2007, the Silk Plus line includes Silk Plus for Bone Health, which provides 40 percent of the recommended daily value of calcium, and NutraFlora fiber, which is a prebiotic and has been shown to help the body absorb calcium. The line also includes Silk Plus Omega-3 DHA and Silk Plus Fiber with 5 grams of fiber per 8-ounce serving.
This summer, Vitasoy USA Inc., Ayer, Mass., added its own lighter calorie option with Vitasoy Lite Plus. Vitasoy Lite Plus provides 30 percent of the daily recommended value of calcium and 4 grams of Fructan, a natural fiber that has been found to help boost calcium absorption, the company says.
The push toward healthier options is a trend that will continue next year as well. In January, The Hain Celestial Group Inc., Melvill, N.Y., will expand its Westsoy brand with a soymilk aimed at boomers, says Joseph Scirica Jr., brand manager of non-dairy beverages, Dream and Westsoy, at Hain Celestial. WestSoy Longevity is formulated with ingredients that are part of the company’s Proprietary Vitality Blend, a blend that helps promote heart health, digestive health, energy, calcium absorption and increased antioxidants to help battle the effects of aging, the company says. Made with organic soymilk, Westsoy Longevity offers folic acid, calcium, selenium, fiber, L-carnitine and vitamins A, C, D, E, B2, B6 and B12. Available in Plain and Vanilla flavors, Longevity contains 6 grams of protein and around 100 calories per 8-ounce serving.
Cultured beverages grow
At the top of the kefir segment is Lifeway Kefir, posting 27.7 percent sales growth to $21.9 million. Last year, Lifeway Foods Inc., Morton Grove, Ill., expanded its product line with a new smoothie drink called Lifeway Lassi. Lifeway’s Mango and Strawberry versions of the traditional South Asian beverage are available in 8-ounce bottles and are distributed through select natural, specialty and ethnic food stores nationwide. The line is designed for Lifeway’s core natural and health food markets, people familiar with lassi from Indian restaurants, and the large immigrant population from India, the company says.
This year, Wildwood Organics, a division of Pulmuone Wildwood, Fullerton, Calif., combined soy and probiotics and launched Probiotic Soymilk, an organic, non-dairy, low-fat, cholesterol-free beverage that contains 8 grams of soy per 237-ml. serving. Probiotic Soymilk offers seven live and active cultures and also provides protein, iron, calcium and vitamins A, B2, B12 and D. The formulation aims to strengthen the immune system and promote digestive health, the company says. The line is available in 10-ounce bottles in Vanilla, Blueberry and Pomegranate flavors, and in 30-ounce family-size packages with an additional Plain flavor option.
Shifting, not shaken
The refrigerated milkshakes and non-dairy drinks segment did not fare as well as its soymilk and kefir counterparts. Refrigerated milkshakes and non-dairy drinks were down nearly 15 percent for the year ending Sept. 7, according to IRI. Making gains in the category were Hain Celestial’s Rice Dream, which now holds 20 percent market share, and The Coca-Cola Co.’s Odwalla Super Protein, which is up 6 percent in market share to 16.5 percent.
A noticeable shift to refrigerated milkshakes and non-dairy drinks that are perceived as healthier and better-for-you has occurred, and Nestle is one beverage company trying to move to where the segment is growing. For its Nesquik brand, in early 2009 Nestle will release a new Nesquik 100 Calorie Low Fat Chocolate Milk. The beverage contains 100 calories per 8-ounce serving, which is 40 percent fewer calories than most low-fat milks per serving, the company says. In addition, Nesquik 100 Calorie contains no added sugar.
Yogurt drinks also are upping the health benefits they offer, and many are including juice as well. Building off its popular Light & Fit brand, The Dannon Group expanded the line with Dannon Light & Fit 0% Plus, which includes Dannon Light & Fit 0% Plus Smoothie in Mixed Berry with Pomegranate, Strawberry, Blueberry, Peach and Strawberry Banana. Each 7-ounce smoothie is fat free and contains 70 calories, 4 grams of protein and 2 to 5 percent juice.
This summer, NBI Juiceworks, Orlando, Fla., also expanded its Sun Shower juice line with Sun Shower Fruit ‘N Yogurt Smoothies. The smoothies are all natural and combine yogurt with vitamins, amino acids, electrolytes and herbs. Fruit ‘N Yogurt Smoothies are fortified with “Lifeguard Protection,” the company’s blend of protein, calcium, niacin, potassium, magnesium, folate and vitamins A, C, E, D, B5, B6 and B12. Packaged in 12-ounce bottles with around 100 calories in an 8-ounce serving, SunShower’s Fruit ‘N Yogurt Smoothies are available in four flavors and contain between 68 and 80 percent juice.
Expanding its offering in small-format yogurt drinks, Unilever added to its Promise Activ brand with SuperShot for Blood Pressure. The shot is an addition to Promise Activ SuperShot for Cholesterol, which launched last fall. Each 3-ounce Promise SuperShot for Blood Pressure contains 350 mg. of potassium, similar to the amount contained in a small banana, and is low in sodium. The company based its claim of aiding high blood pressure on research that diets containing foods that are a good source of potassium and low in sodium may reduce the risk of high blood pressure and stroke, it says.
Rice, nut, grain and seed drinks
While soymilk offers an alternative to milk for some consumers, it is finding competition from other new non-dairy beverages.
Hain Celestial recently released Almond Dream and Oat Dream. Almond Dream is made from almonds and enriched with calcium and vitamins A, E, B12 and D. Oat Dream is all natural, contains no added sugars, is low fat and is fortified with calcium and vitamins A, B12 and D. The oat drink is produced in a nut-free environment, the company says. Tualatin, Ore.-based Pacific Natural Foods recently had its Almond Non-Dairy Beverages, certified organic and reformulated its 32-ounce Original and Vanilla varieties to include 25 percent and 35 percent less sugar, respectively. BI