According to Chicago-based Mintel’s April 2013 report “Dairy and Non-dairy Milk – US,” the “other milk” segment, which includes ready-to-drink milk or milk substitutes, refrigerated kefir/milk substitutes/soy milk, and refrigerated milkshakes/non-dairy drinks, makes up 7.3 percent of the total U.S. dairy and non-dairy milk market. This represents a more than 30 percent increase in market share since 2010, it reports. Mintel also predicts that this category will continue to see growth through 2017 to reach nearly $2.9 billion in sales.

As part of this upward trend for dairy-alternative beverages, the refrigerated milk substitutes market grew approximately 15 percent to more than $1 billion in U.S. supermarkets, drug stores, mass market retailers, military commissaries, and select club and dollar retail chains for the 52 weeks ending May 19, according to data from Chicago-based market research firm Information Resources Inc. (IRI).

Breaking this trend down even further, Santa Monica, Calif.-based IBISWorld’s March 2012 report “Soy & Almond Milk Production in the U.S.” states that the total 2012 dairy-alternative beverage market reached $1.5 billion, with soy milk making up 67.5 percent. Almond milk accounts for 21.5 percent of the market with rice milk at 7 percent, coconut milk at 2.5 percent, and other alternatives such as hemp, oat, hazelnut, flax, sunflower and multigrain milk making up the remaining 1.5 percent, it says.

Almond milk brands Silk Pure Almond and Blue Diamond Almond Breeze were the fastest-growing non-dairy brands from January 2012 to January 2013, Mintel reported, citing IRI data. Each of the brands gained market share compared with 2012 sales, it adds.

Although soy milk and almond milk dominated the top of the dairy alternatives market, Morton Grove, Ill.-based Lifeway Foods’ Lifeway Original Kefir product snagged the No. 6 position on IRI’s list of the top refrigerated kefirs, milk sub-stitutes and soy milks with a more than 20 percent increase in sales for more than $47 million in IRI-measured channels in the 52 weeks ending May 19, IRI reports.

Other noteworthy alternatives in the Top 20 include Lifeway’s Organic Kefir product line, which came in at the No. 11 position with a 16 per-cent increase in sales for more than $5 million, and Lifeway’s ProBugs Organic Kefir for kids at No. 15 with a 101 percent increase in sales for approximately $2.4 million, according to IRI.

The flavored milk segment totaled more than $1.3 billion in the 52 weeks ending May 19 in IRI-measured channels, with three different TruMoo chocolate milk brands, which all launched last year from Dallas-based Dean Foods, ranking on IRI’s Top 10 list of flavored milk, eggnog and buttermilk drinks.

As demonstrated by the popularity of better-for-you milk drinks like TruMoo, consumers are expecting more than just flavor from their dairy drinks — they want health and wellness benefits, too. A growing body of research shows that low-fat chocolate milk — with its mix of carbohydrates and protein — helps build muscle fuel and can be used as a recovery drink after a workout, according to Nestlé USA’s Nesquik brand.