'A tremendous year...' Almond Breeze now generates more than $800m in annual retail sales, says Blue Diamond Growers

By Elaine Watson

- Last updated on GMT

Unsweetened Original and Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Breeze remain the two most popular flavors in all key markets across the US.  Picture credit: Blue Diamond Almond Breeze
Unsweetened Original and Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Breeze remain the two most popular flavors in all key markets across the US. Picture credit: Blue Diamond Almond Breeze

Related tags almondmilk plant-based plant-based milk Almond Breeze Blue diamond

Oatmilk has taken off like a rocket ship over the past couple of years. However, US retail sales of almondmilk - which accounts for two thirds of category sales – grew a solid 16.9%* last year in measured channels, with market leader Almond Breeze posting retail sales growth of 17% in the US retail market.

Owned by Blue Diamond Growers (a co-op of almond growers) Almond Breeze is best known for its almondmilk, which is now sold in 100 countries from Mexico, and Brazil to Thailand, although it has recently branched out into other plant-based products including yogurts and creamers.  

In the year to August 28, 2020, the Almond Breeze brand - the co-op's "most profitable product​" - generated more than $800m in annual retail sales, says Blue Diamond, which recently expanded a production line for Almond Breeze almondmilk at its facility in Turlock, California that more than doubled its production volume.

The brand has seen growth across the board in the US (where retail sales rose 17% in the 52 weeks to Dec 27, according to IRI MULO data), with particularly strong sales in shelf-stable products during the pandemic, which have not historically been a big part of the US market, senior brand manager Micah Keith told FoodNavigator-USA.

“Our shelf stable business doubled the first month the pandemic hit, and since then it has been ​[generating] solid double-digit growth.”

A 'tremendous year'

While some of this recent growth reflects an industry-wide rise in packaged food sales as food consumption shifted towards the home during the pandemic, Almond Breeze has also picked up new consumers, so Keith anticipates Almond Breeze could still see sustained uplifts in 2021, albeit not likely at 2020's record levels.

“2020 was a tremendous year. There was an uptick in people trying Almond Breeze, so we picked up new households, as well as seeing existing customers buy more. Sales of the​ [96oz] family size vanilla almondmilk increased by 82% year over year."

Almond Breeze usage occasions, protein levels, and micronutrient fortification

So how does almondmilk compare to other plant-based milks?

There's room in the market for multiple products as the whole pie is growing, said Keith. However, almondmilk is well-placed to grow given its versatility, appealing flavor, and lower calorie positioning.

While oatmilk is most strongly associated with coffee, gaining traction in coffee shops before it hit mainstream retail in the US, for example, consumers of almondmilk often cite a fairly broad number of key usage occasions, from cereals, smoothies, and as a standalone beverage, to hot drinks, said Keith.

Almondmilk (1g) is lower in protein than dairy milk (8g) and most other plant-based milks except coconutmilk (Almond Breeze has 1g protein/240ml serving, vs 3g for Oatly oatmilk, 8g for Ripple peamilk, 8g for Silk soymilk, 1g for Rice Dream ricemilk, and 0g for So Delicious coconutmilk); however, attitude and usage survey data suggests that this is not holding Almond Breeze back, claimed Keith.

“From the research we’ve done, we’re not seeing consumers really counting on their beverages to be a primary source of their protein for the day. Consumers that are very focused on protein from beverages are not really our target audience."

While Almond Breeze doesn’t add extra protein to products in the US market (it has some new protein fortified offerings for other markets such as South Korea and Australia), it does fortify its US wares with key micronutrients that consumers are looking for in a pantry staple including calcium, and vitamin D, A, E, however.

We have more calcium than dairy milk," ​noted Keith.

Almondmilk is lower in calories than other plant-based milks

When it comes to calories, meanwhile, almondmilk is lower in calories than other plant-based milks (Almond Breeze Original has 60 calories per 240 ml serving vs 120 calories for Oatly oatmilk, 90-100 calories of Ripple peamilk, 110 calories for Silk soymilk, and 70 calories for So Delicious ricemilk) and has an appealing flavor profile that has helped make it the largest player in the segment, added Keith.

As for new products, Almond Breeze almondmilk blended with real bananas ​(launched in early 2019) has been very successful, with sales up 52% year over year in 2020, he said.

“We’re not using banana flavor, we’re adding real banana puree to unsweetened almondmilk, and it’s almost had a cult following."

Other new launches have not garnered such mainstream appeal, he said: "We launched a horchata in the Southwest and that was maybe not quite mainstream enough​ [so was dropped], but we’re always looking at new categories, and new functional, taste, or textural innovations.”

*SPINS data, 52 weeks to January 24, 2021, natural enhanced, and conventional channels

With trade wars, port-related receiving disruptions, market price corrections, foodservice shut-downs, and a fire at the Sacramento Blue Diamond plant, it was a tough year to sell almonds. Yet Blue Diamond prevailed in continuing to build a remarkably strong business in support of a 3-billion-pound almond crop – the largest ever in our 110-year history.”

Blue Diamond Growers president and CEO Mark Jansen, speaking at a virtual presentation to almond growers in November 2020

Plant-based milk by numbers, 52 weeks to Jan 24, 2021 (SPINS )​

US retail sales of plant-based milk rose 21.9% to $2.542bn in measured channels (natural enhanced, and conventional channels) in the year to Jan. 24, 2021, according to new data shared with FoodNavigator-USA from SPINS​.

The key segments are:​​​​​ (figures below exclude included blended products)

  • #1 Almondmilk (+16.9% to $1.59bn): ​​​​​Refrigerated +17%, Shelf-stable +15.8%  
  • #2 Oatmilk (+219.3% to $264.1m): ​​​​​Refrigerated +218.6%, Shelf-stable +85.9%  
  • #3 Soymilk (-0.9% to $201.4m): ​​​​​Refrigerated -0.2%, Shelf-stable +11.3%  
  • #4 Coconutmilk (+25.9% to $134.6m): ​​Refrigerated +8.3%, Shelf-stable +68.6%
  • #5 Peamilk (+15.8% to $45.2m): ​​​Refrigerated +16.4%, Shelf-stable -2.1%
  • #6 Ricemilk (+4.2% to $44.68m): ​​​Refrigerated -8.5%, Shelf-stable +12.2%

Plant-based cheese and yogurt by numbers, 52 weeks to Feb 21, 2021 (SPINS)​

  • Plant-based cheese:​​ +43.6% to $233.9m
  • Plant-based yogurt: ​​+16.4% to $346.2m 
Almond Breeze yogurts with fruit on the bottom have just started rolling out to stores in the Northeast. Picture credit: Blue Diamond Almond Breeze
New Almond Breeze creamers – production of which was temporarily put on pause while the company ramped up manufacturing of its core products to meet elevated demand last year – have just started rolling out to stores. Picture credit: Blue Diamond Almond Breeze

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