Speaking at the Barclays Global Consumer Staples Conference in Boston this week, WhiteWave Foods CEO Gregg Engles said plant-based beverages now accounted for an astonishing 7.5% of dollar sales in the US retail ‘milk’ market, while plant-based products only accounted for 1.8% of the creamers market, 0.6% of the ice cream market, and 0.7% of the yogurt market.
He added: “While these categories are small relative to plant-based beverages, they represent a significant opportunity for continued growth. We have identified almost $3bn of additional plant-based category potential across creamers, ice cream, yogurts, and other future planned innovation.”
US household penetration of plant-based beverages hit 31% in 2014 vs 18% in 2010
As for plant-based beverages, he said: "Over the past five years the plant-based category has seen steady increases in household penetration [31% in 2015 vs 18% in 2010], but many opportunities still exist to expand the category, including converting milk households to new innovations like Silk cashew milk.”
With its “creamy texture that competes significantly with skim milk “, he said, Silk cashew milk would be “targeting new consumers and demographics such as Hispanics which have a high levels of lactose intolerance and a high degree of interest in dairy alternatives.”
As for private label plant-based beverages, which had made some rapid share gains in 2014, he predicted that “private label share will plateau in the mid-teens, a similar share that you see in many other categories.”
Growth in Chinese plant-based beverages category is ‘robust’
WhiteWave – which also has a significant and rapidly-growing presence in plant-based foods in Europe via the Alpro and Provamel brands – entered the Chinese market early this year with almond and walnut-based beverages under the Silk brand via a joint venture with China Mengniu Dairy Company, and was making good progress, although it was very early days, he said.
“We’re in the early stages of building consumer awareness and trial in targeted markets… The plant-based beverage market in China is worth more than $2bn [and while we are a] start up business [there], growth in the plant based category is robust… we’re very optimistic about the long term opportunities.”