Alpro has become the third-largest brand in UK milk on the back of a 28.3% hike in value sales.

This was the year dairy alternatives moved into the mainstream, according to Alpro, which has seen sales rise by £16.4m to just over £74m [Nielsen 52 w/e 11 October 2014].

Alpro’s success was a result of “exciting product launches,” marketing focused on re-inventing breakfasts, and increased consumer demand for “healthy, plant-based options”, said UK marketing controller Vicky Upton. The rise of Alpro and brands such as Arla’s Lactofree - up 25.8% to £28.9m - had given retailers opportunity to grow the milk category, she added.

As interest in free-from grows, Aldi is pushing on with plans to develop its own plant-based milk alternative, last week registering a third trademark application for Acti Leaf, which has branding similar to Alpro’s.

Meanwhile, fresh milk category sales have fallen 3% to £2.9bn, with intense pricing competition and price-matching against the discounters contributing to a 4.6% year-on-year decline in the average price per litre of own-label milk.

Cravendale, the largest brand, fell 0.5% to £151.8m, while second-placed Black & White fell 10.5% to just under £93m. Sales of Dairy Crest’s Country Life, which lost its third place to Alpro, fell 20.3% to £61.3m.

Dairy Crest has announced plans to sell its dairies business to Müller, and said it had “selectively been reducing its exposure to some parts of the middle ground”, leading to a “planned reduction” in Country Life milk sales.