This market growth can be attributed to the rising inclination toward vegan, plant-based food, increased instances of lactose intolerance and rising demands for innovative dairy-free applications. Soy milk dominates as the largest segment of dairy-free products, most likely due to rising awareness about the nutritional benefits of soy-based foods.
However, the flavored and sweetened dairy-free segment—including dairy-free yogurt, milk and frozen desserts—accounts for the largest segment by value.
The opening of these new markets offers ample opportunity for creativity and new product introductions in the dairy industry.
Moving to the mainstream
Sales of alternative beverages—like almond milk, soy milk or lactose-free milk—have grown by approximately 250% since 2000, reaching $894.6bn. 
Dairy milk alternatives are popular with both health-conscious and more adventurous shoppers. In a (indicate year or month) Packaged Facts survey of users of dairy alternatives, 70% of respondents said they try to eat healthier foods and 63% said they like to try new food products. 
Over the past decade, non-dairy and plant-based milk has become commonplace in mainstream supermarkets.
Unlike the unrefrigerated, boxed and powdered soy milk introduced in the 1970s, next-generation refrigerated plant milk brands can package their products just like their traditional, dairy-based counterparts and position them in the dairy aisle of stores. This influences customers to view dairy-free milk as a fresh, equal alternative to traditional milk.
Ice cream, no cream
As dairy-free milk becomes more ubiquitous in the refrigerated aisles, dairy-free ice cream is claiming space in the freezers. New launches of dairy-free ice cream varieties now make up 4% of all ice cream launches. 
Many of the new products come from established ice cream brands. Häagen-Dazs, Breyer’s and Ben & Jerrys have all launched their own non-dairy ice cream lines.
Interestingly, dairy-free ice cream is not marketed as vegan, but instead as dairy-free.
According to research by Mintel, consumers view dairy-free ice cream to be a more permissible dessert. Brands avoid putting vegan labels on the packaging because of the healthy, non-indulgent connotation. Brands do better marketing dairy-free ice creams as plant-based treats.
Is the milkman okay?
Some traditional dairy manufacturers are turning to legal action to solidify their position in the newly disrupted dairy foods landscape.
Domestic dairy leaders in the US have proposed the "Defending Against Imitations and Replacements of Yogurt, Milk, and Cheese to Promote Regular Intake of Dairy Everyday Act (Dairy Pride Act)" to standardize the legal definition of milk.
Industry leaders argue that plant-based milk products could potentially mislead consumers into thinking they are purchasing dairy milk, since the products are packaged similarly and are both labeled as milk.
The act argues that 80% of the US population fails to meet their daily dairy recommendation. It calls on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to reinforce their definition of milk across the packaging of dairy and dairy alternatives products.
How necessary or helpful the act would be is up for debate. Michael Lynch, vice president of marketing at dairy alternative leader Daiya Foods, believes re-labeling will create more confusion, and argues that plant-based consumers actively seek those products and make informed purchase decisions.
Other dairy industry leaders, instead of fighting alternative dairy's market growth, seem to be taking advantage of dairy's market shift—like the established ice cream brands investing in dairy-free ice cream lines. 
Find solutions at PACK EXPO East
Dairy and dairy alternatives producers looking to explore the latest trends in packaging and labeling technologies for dairy products can find them at PACK EXPO East (April 16—18; Pennsylvania Convention Center, Philadelphia), produced by PMMI, The Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies.
The show will draw an expected 6,000 attendees and 400 suppliers of advanced packaging equipment, automation, robotics and controls, materials, containers, printing and labeling technologies. This large network of packaging professionals includes managers, engineers, brand managers, package developers, sales and marketing professionals and others looking to keep up with technological change, improve production and enhance their brand.
Attendees can also benefit from exhibitor demonstrations and free 30-minute seminars on trends, thought leadership and innovations presented by industry professionals at the Innovation Stage.
To register, visit packexpoeast.com.