The flavored dairy-beverage business is poised for unprecedented growth in a category that previously positioned milk as a commodity rather than a drink. New innovations such as single-serve plastic bottles for milk, extended shelf-life products, carbonated milk and a variety of new flavors and promotional tactics arrived at a time when health conscious, on-the-go consumers were ready to make a change.

Research conducted by reports that flavored dairy beverages — including shelf-stable flavored milks and milkshakes, coffee-milk drinks, yogurt beverages, smoothies, milk flavorings, dairy-based drinks and hot cocoa mixes will gather annual sales of $2 billion this year. Flavored milks account for most of the market growth. And most of the sales — 73 percent — were through traditional supermarkets.

According the report “The U.S. Market for Flavored Dairy Beverages,” the market is also enjoying a new audience. “For many years flavored milk was classified as a kid’s product, said Meg Hargreaves vice president of research publishing for “The introduction of single-serve packaging and sophisticated flavors, along with the fact that adults are looking for ways to increase their calcium intake has altered that perception.”

Projections for the future include an annual growth rate of 8.4 percent with sales of $3 billion by 2006. And that doesn’t include milk product sales through school lunch programs and vending machines. Market analysts focused on sales made through traditional grocery stores, mass merchandisers such as Sam’s Club, drug stores and c-stores.