Look out cow milk - almond, rice, coconut and soy alternatives are growing in popularity.
Last year Sanitarium reported a 12 per cent increase in the growth of milk alternatives such as rice, soy, oat and coconut in New Zealand, while relative newcomer almond milk showed a spectacular 143 per cent leap.
Meanwhile sales of cow milk and cream over the past year have been flat, according to Fonterra Brands spokesman Peter McLure.
Though experiencing nothing like the extraordinary 155 per cent hike in sales over the past two years claimed for the United Kingdom by the Daily Mail newspaper, the alternative milk market sector is growing well, says Sanitarium communications manager Mark Roper.
"I would view those UK figures with scepticism; in New Zealand we have seen an increase of 16 per cent over two years, which is good but not dramatic.
"What is growing very rapidly is almond milk, which in the last year is up 143 per cent, from a very low base as it wasn't around three years ago on a large scale," Roper said.
A Foodstuffs spokeswoman says the biggest dollar and unit growth is in almond milk, followed by coconut milk and cream, both showing strong growth two years in a row.
Conversely, rice milk sales had dropped for the second consecutive year, she said.
Countdown supermarkets have had a 14 per cent increase in milk alternatives, predominantly driven by almond milk. The supermarket chain has seen a 228 per cent jump in almond and almond- blended milk sales.
Roper said that in the United States almond milk was now the number one alternative, outselling soy milk. The California Almond Board was very active in promoting its own brand which was not widely sold in New Zealand.
Sanitarium produces three varieties plus an almond-coconut blend. It has a 20 per cent share of the market, on a par with Vitasoy.
"We believe people are looking for alternatives for health reasons - lactose free or lower fat, the most appealing thing about almond milk is that besides tasting pretty good it has much fewer calories than cow milk," Roper said.
"Our number one seller is actually unsweetened almond milk, which has 60 per cent fewer calories than light dairy. Almond has a health halo, you can have it with your breakfast cereal, smoothies is another popular use."
McLure said it was "not surprising" to see milk alternatives growing in popularity as there was so much more choice and people were more aware of the issues of milk allergies and intolerances.
Anchor had recently introduced a new brand, Zero Lacto, to cater for lactose-intolerant consumers. It was the only fresh lactose-free product on the market.
Prices of the alternative milks vary. Organic almond sells for $7.50, non-organic for $3.89, while soy varies for between $4.60 and $6.20. A litre of cow milk costs $2.89 at Countdown.
Hemp milk, made from hemp seed, may legally reappear on supermarket shelves.
Until January of this year unapproved hemp milk was sold through a number of stores, including Commonsense Organics, until it was removed.
Hemp seed comes from the same plant as marijuana - cannabis sativa. Despite containing low levels of marijuana's psychoactive substance, THC, hemp is still classed as a drug and cannot be sold for human consumption.
However, the door may soon open for hemp milk's reappearance, now that New Zealand farmers are to be allowed to legally grow hemp for products such as clothes.
A spokeswoman for the Ministry for Primary Industries said Food Safety Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) was investigating the issue of hemp milk for sale as a food product.
A decision will be made at a ministerial forum on food regulation in January.
- The Dominion Post