The fastest growing product in the dairy alternative beverage market is almond milk. 2014 sales reached $854 million, up 40.5 percent from the previous year, according to Packaged Facts. While almond milk is still much less popular than dairy milk, its popularity is growing much faster than soy milk, which declined in sales 15.4 percent from 2013 to 2014.
Howard Waxman is a market research analyst at Packaged Facts. He describes almond milk as an outlier product that has moved mainstream because consumers are responding to its perceived health benefits. He says,
We live in an era when big institutions — the government, big industry, and the traditional media — are not trusted as they have been by previous generations. Consumers are seeking out alternative information sources as well as alternatives to traditional products.
Attorney James C. Kelly represents clients who are suing two of the largest producers of almond milk, Blue Diamond and WhiteWave, which make Silk and So Delicious. Kelly says of almond milk:
It’s being marketed as a healthy premium product because it is made from almonds, when it barely contains any almonds. The product is really developed from thickening agents to create a milk-like substitute that tastes very much like milk. The wrongdoing is really hitting home on a large scale.
Kelly’s clients are angry because of the lack of almonds and the high level of the thickening agent carrageenan, and they are demanding changes in the labeling. Kelly says a half gallon of these two brands of almond milk contain only about 38 almonds, while 144 to 192 almonds would be required to achieve the creamy texture. Instead, these two brands rely on thickening agents and other additives.
Blue Diamond responds that their Almond Breeze product includes an average of over 50 almonds per half gallon. Although they do not release their recipe, they do list ingredients and nutritional information on their almond milk. The company says:
Water is the most common and highest volume ingredient in nearly all popular beverages including coffee, tea, soda, juice, and sports drinks. Cow’s milk is 85% to 95% water and the same can be said for most soy and almond milks which is why our brand is not alone in responding to recent lawsuit claims.
WhiteWave states their labels are fully compliant with the law, and in no way misleading. The company says:
We think consumers know what they are getting when they buy almond milk. We believe our consumers understand that in order to make this a beverage, that there are other ingredients beyond just almonds. Like most food companies, we don’t share our exact product recipes, but we provide a full and accurate ingredient list and nutrition panel on all of our products.
Nevertheless, both companies have recently announced they are removing carrageenan from their products.