Vegan NPD: Plant-based dairy alternatives thrive amid European boom

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24 Apr 2018 --- Plant-based dairy alternatives are thriving in European markets, amid a surge in demand for vegetarian and vegan options. But while soy still leads, it is other plant-based options that are enjoying much stronger growth from an NPD standpoint.

According to Innova Market Insights data, over the past five years, the number of new plant-based dairy alternative drinks launches reported in Europe has grown continuously, with a CAGR (2013-2017) of +19.5 percent. Between 2013 and 2017, soy continues to be the top ingredient for plant-based dairy alternative drinks, however, the market penetration is decreasing. At the same time, almonds and oats show strong growth over the years, with the CAGR (2013-2017) of +39 percent and +36 percent, respectively.

NPD growth is coming despite regulatory constraints on marketing these types of products as milk. In June 2017, the European Court of Justice ruled that purely plant-based products cannot be marketed with names such as “milk,” “cream,” “butter,” “cheese” or “yogurt,” which are strictly reserved by EU law for animal products. This decision also pertained to products that used dairy-related terms in conjunction with clarifying or descriptive words indicating the plant origin of the product concerned.Click to Enlarge

Just this week, French politicians banned meat-like terms from describing vegetarian and vegan food which means that words such as “steak” and “fillet” will only be used for products of animal origin. MP for La République En Marche party, Jean-Baptiste Moreau, initially proposed the ban claiming that using words and phrases such as “plant burgers” or “vegetarian sausage” were misleading to consumers. And now fellow French MPs have agreed, which means terms like “vegan sausages,” “soya steaks,” and “Quorn fillets” are resigned to the past in France. French food producers will no longer be able to use any term that is most commonly associated with meat, such as “burgers” or “sausages” if that product doesn’t contain any meat – even if the description makes this clear. This could mean that other countries may follow suit in the naming of meat alternatives. FoodIngredientsFirst has since reached out to Quorn for further details. You can read further coverage on FoodIngredientsFirst, published yesterday, here.

Vegan products have become more mainstream and we now see a much higher prevalence of food companies moving straight beyond vegetarian to vegan. The plant-based food market is growing at double-digit rates and expected to reach US$5.2 billion worldwide by 2020, according to Nestlé and a significant proportion of this will be down to plant-based snacks. The trend in plant-based foods is not slowing down either. A CAGR in products featuring the plant-based claims such as “plant-based” and “100 percent plant,” has been +60 percent from 2012-2016.

The notion of a “mindful consumer” was listed as Innova Market Insight’s top trend for this year, which certainly crosses over into this category. Consumers are more conscious than ever about making responsible food choices that are not only healthy, but that also take sustainability and ethical considerations into account. As the number and variety of claims made by food and beverages grow, consumers will increasingly have to weigh up different factors in making purchase decisions when it comes to vegetarian and vegan food products.

Protein remains a key trend
Plant-based based protein is continuing to turn heads, specifically in the vegan space. Often protein is considered in many meat-based products, but there are high protein vegan and vegetarian analog items popping up on supermarket shelves regularly too. For example, Los Angeles based manufacturer and distributor of plant-based snacks and foods, Unisoy Foods, launched new flavors in their Vegan Jerky range, which the company says is “a protein-packed plant-based treat for vegans and omnivores alike.”

Protein remains an essential nutrient overall and with the need for vegan food on the rise, the need for protein goes hand in hand. Vegan innovation for NPD seems to be making its mark on the snacking segment, which also takes several factors around health, animal welfare and sustainability into account. As more and more consumers move to a vegetarian and vegan lifestyle, this could become a standard tradition, but one thing is for sure, if more food products appeal to a broader audience, more opportunities will be created for manufacturers and consumers alike.


Alimentaria 2018
Plant-based dairy alternative drink launches in Spain have been growing at a CAGR of +10 percent (2013-2017). This area of product development formed the key area of innovation at Alimentaria 2018 in Barcelona, Spain, the largest food & beverage shown in southern Europe.

Click to EnlargeAt this year’s event, Coca-Cola launched its Ades brand [which is very popular in Latin America] to the Spanish market. The line of vegetable-based drinks is claimed to fuse the best of the seed [plain or with fruits], with four options available based on soy, oats, rice and almonds. The products are packaged in either 250ml or 800ml PET format.

Idilia Foods leads the Spanish cocoa powder market with its Cola Cao brand. A partnership with dairy company Pascual led to the 2016 launch of Cola Cao Shake, an “on the go” cup that can be heated in the microwave and consumed either hot or cold. Now the company has launched two new plant-based variants of Cola Cao Shake, an oat-based and a coconut-based drink.

Click to EnlargeAlso within the chocolate milk space is Cacaolat, a brand which has now been extended with Veggie – Oat & Cocoa. The 100 percent plant-based product is claimed to combine “all the naturalness of oats and the authentic pleasure of Cacaolat.” The company points to 2017 Nielsen data, which found 7.6 percent growth in the Spanish plant-based drinks space and 28.7 percent growth in oat-based drinks. A June 2017 consumer study conducted by PSCG found that 9 in 10 consumers like the new Cacaolat Veggie product.

Innovations were also on display within the spoonable dairy alternative space at Alimentaria 2018. Alimentacion y Nutricion Familiar launched Sun&vegs Es Avena, a plant-based healthy snack, similar to yogurt but without the use of animal protein. “It perfectly fits the needs of vegan consumers, it is also lactose-free, and it is formulated with our own patented formula of ferments: inmunodigest, that regulates the immune and digestive system (Lactobacillus acidophilus and Lactobacillus casei).”

Andros Granada, S.L.U presented Me-up! promoted as the first range of 100 percent vegetable refrigerated desserts without soy and made from vegetable drinks. It is suitable for vegans and does not contain milk proteins, lactose, preservatives, dyes or artificial flavors. It is available in 12 varieties (containing either almond, rice or oats) in 12 x 100g format. It also has the endorsement of the European Vegetarian Union and a UTZ certificate for sustainable cocoa.

Also at the show, Pastoret launched a dairy alternative based on almond milk using Spain’s Maracona almonds. The product is marketed on a sustainability platform. Finally, Danone launched Alpro products in the light of its acquisition of WhiteWave.

The May issue of Innova – Food & Beverage Innovation will feature a detailed review of Alimentaria 2018.

By Robin Wyers & Elizabeth Green

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