Once the poster bean for the natural foods industry, soymilk was the go-to dairy alternative. Starbucks offered it. Supermarkets sold it right next to regular milk. It came in chocolate flavor. But sales of nondairy beverages are going to another plant food these days: Almond milk.
According to a report in Businessweek, almond milk now makes up more than 55 percent of the $1.4 billion nondairy milk market, while soymilk is down to just 35 percent. And soymilk sales are expected to fall another 11 percent this year.
“Soybeans just aren’t hip,” Larry Finkel, director of food and beverage research at Marketresearch.com, told Businessweek. And some of that loss of appeal may have to do with growing concern over the health of soybeans. They’ve been linked with possible breast cancer risks and a myriad of health issues related to genetic modification.
The March Against Monsanto protests in May saw more than 2 million people worldwide take to the streets to in protest of genetically modified foods. GMO labeling bills in several states have brought national attention to the issue; and with soy being one of the most common GMO crops, soymilk is becoming less desirable.
There have been a number of competitors in the nondairy category for decades, with rice being the longtime alternative to soy (via the popular Rice Dream brand). But rice milk lacks fat and flavor, something both soy and almonds have. Almond milk in particular is rich in healthy fats and antioxidants, and is lower in calories than soymilk.
While other nondairy milks including flax, hemp, even quinoa milk, have eked out shelf space, almond milk sales continue to grow, leaving little room for soymilk to sprout any new sales.
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