Speaking with DairyReporter.com, Louisa Sabin, researcher, Datamonitor Consumer, said almond milk, coconut milk, cashew milk and other non-dairy alternatives represent a greater threat to sales of cow’s milk than milk from other animals.
Global sales of non-dairy milk alternatives grew from US$5.178bn (€4.6bn) in 2009 to US$8.15bn (€7.5bn) in 2014, according to Euromonitor.
“They are perceived to be healthier and more natural because they are plant-based,” said Sabin.
“They are a bigger threat to cow’s milk than goat’s milk or any other milk.”
To regain market share lost to these plant-based products, dairy processors should focus on developing functional milk products tailored to meet the needs of specific demographics, such as children, women and seniors, said Sabin.
"Consumers really want something with benefits tailored to them," she said.
Arla Foods' Big Milk - launched in the UK in April 2015 - is a prime example, said Sabin.
Big Milk, which contains added vitamin D, vitamin A and iron, was developed by Arla to specifically meet the nutritional needs of children aged one to five.
Staying on top of ingredient trends will also be key to the development of functional milk products like Big Milk, she said.
“Ingredient-wise they have to be more aware of the market to slow the momentum of non-dairy alternatives.”
Sabin attributed the current consumer shift towards alternatives, in part, to the “negative press" surrounding cow's milk.
Lactose intolerance and milk allergies, which are often self-diagnosed by consumers, also play a part, leading some consumer to believe "goat's milk, for example, will be easier to digest," she said.
Milk from donkeys and camels, both of which are hypoallergenic, have the potential to fill this ever expanding expanding gap in the market.
Donkey milk burst earlier this year with the launch of the world's first carton-packed product.
Single-dose 100ml cartons of Onalat UHT whole donkey milk began rolling off lines in Modena, Italy in December 2014. By January 2015, manufacturer, Eurolactis, had secured listings with retailers in Italy and France.
To challenge goat's milk in the "easier to digest" category, however, donkey milk must become "more visible to the consumer," Sabin said.
“Donkey milk is more associated with beauty products," she said, "but it can move into the food and drink sector because it is very similar to human milk and it is suitable for people allergic to milk."
“But at the moment it is not really visible,” she added. “They, the manufacturers, need to do more to make it more visible to the consumer because people still associate it with beauty products and personal care products.”
Camel milk, meanwhile, has made the jump from staple in the Middle East and North Africa to superfood in the West.
However, because it is sold in the US for as much as $18 a bottle it is likely to remain a niche product, Sabin said.
"We've seen a few products launched in the US, but thing is it's really expensive," she said. "Because of the price, it will remain a niche product."
"For it to be successful, they should target high end consumers," she added.