Diet fashions may change. However, as recent research has demonstrated once again, some aspects of dieting behavior remain predictable. If the fat goes down the sugar goes up, and this also works the other way around regardless of official healthy eating guidelines.
The implication is that demand for "better-for-you" products is destined to rise.
When consumers embark on a diet, the upshot is that they have to cut down on something. This usually means curbing their intake of calorie-dense foods.
A healthy diet is a balanced diet that provides us with the right amounts of all the different nutrients we need. Going dairy-free simply means following the healthy eating advice that applies to us all, and that includes replacing milk and dairy products with calcium-fortified plant-based alternatives such as Silk or Alpro alternatives and drinks.
Between 30 and 50 million Americans are lactose intolerant. The consumption of dairy products has been linked to everything from increased risk of ovarian and prostate cancers to ear infections and diabetes. Fortunately, plant-based milk provides a convenient and healthy alternative to cow's milk.
If you are currently making the transition to a dairy-free diet, you have plenty of choices. Soy, almond, hemp, coconut, and rice milk, among others, are taking over the dairy case—and claiming supermarket aisles all their own. There are dozens of brands of plant-based milks and hundreds of options to choose from to meet everyone's individual tastes and nutritional needs. The market leader in plant-based dairy products is a company called WhiteWave Foods (NYSE:WWAV)
WhiteWave Foods is the leading manufacturer of plant-based foods and beverages in North America and Europe. It plant-based beverages include soy, almond, coconut, hazelnut, rice, and oat based milk products. Famous brands such as Silk, Alpro (Europe), International Delight, Horizon Organic and some other brand names are conquering North America and Europe.
The company markets its products to grocery stores, mass merchandisers, club stores, convenience stores, and health food stores, as well as to restaurants and foodservice outlets through its direct sales force and independent brokers. The WhiteWave Foods Company was part of Dean Foods, but began operating independently as of May 23, 2013.
WhiteWave is destined to win
WhiteWave's market share in plant-based alternatives is growing quite remarkably. Its No. 1 market share positions include a 75% share in soy, a 65% share in coconut and 53% share in almond.
The company's third quarter results were above expectations. Revenue was up 10% year-over-year and came in at $639 million, and EPS in the third quarter was $0.19. WhiteWave is looking for some M&A opportunities, so I guess we will see something there at the end of this year or the first quarter of next year.
Hain Celestial Group
WhiteWave's biggest competitor in the plant-based milk category is Hain Celestial Group (NASDAQ:HAIN). Hain's RICE DREAM and SOY DREAM are the main products in the alternative milk market.
The company manufactures, markets, distributes, and sells organic and natural products. It sells its products to specialty and natural food distributors, supermarkets, natural food stores, mass-market retailers, e-tailers, food service channels, and club stores in approximately 50 countries worldwide.
Hain's first quarter results were much better than expected. Net sales increased by 33% to $477.5 million, and earnings per share came in at $0.52, a 27% increase. There was great demand for a number of the company's organic-leaning products. CEO Irwin Simon noted during the firm's earnings conference call that the trend of more families eating at home sets up well for Hain, so this could drive sales growth going forward.
Another company worth mentioning isLifeway Foods (NASDAQ:LWAY). The company manufactures and sells probiotic, cultured, and functional dairy and non-dairy health food products in the United States and Great Britain. It offers kefir, a drinkable dairy beverage in various flavors under the Lifeway Kefir and Helios Nutrition Organic Kefir brand names. Lifeway Foods is America's leader in real kefir, and other probiotic foods.
Lifeway was recently recognized by Forbes Magazine as one of the Best Small Companies in America. That said, the company is looking to expand outside the U.S. and already started to sell some of its products in Great Britain. The rest of Europe will follow, so keep an eye on this company.
A great story
The plant-based milk sector offers compelling opportunities for number one WhiteWave, but also for two of its smaller competitors.
Investors who are willing to invest in the healthy dairy food sector have several choices. But if you want to invest in the leader in plant-based dairy products, you have to look at WhiteWave Foods. g
Johan Seijkens has a position in WhiteWave Foods and Lifeway Foods. The Motley Fool recommends Hain Celestial. The Motley Fool owns shares of Hain Celestial and WhiteWave Foods. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.