According to the Dutch market researcher's report Soyfoods: The European market 2007, soyfoods were worth €1.8bn in 2006, representing seven per cent growth over the previous year. This figure can be broken down into meat-free and tofu products, which were worth €1.2bn, and products such as soy milk and dairy desserts marketed on a dairy-free platform, which were worth €600m. Senior analyst Gerard Klein Essink told FoodNavigator.com that, following a period of consolidation, the market is poised for a further growth spurt brought about by new marketing and public relations campaigns. Examples of consolidation include Hain Celestial acquiring the Haldane and Linda McCartney brands - and just this week, in the US, WhiteWave Foods' tofu business. Premier Foods bought the Marlow Foods/Quorn and Cauldron brands, and Alpro Soya the SoFine Foods brand. Bringing brands together under a large food company means that there are more marketing resources available to promote them. This, in turn stokes awareness and breeds market potential. Moreover, small to medium individual companies tend to have a national focus. Large multinationals, on the other hand, can apply their capabilities across a broad reach of markets, making the best use of research and development and resulting in cost savings. Prosoy says that consumers are also becoming more receptive to the benefits of soy, even if they have not been touched by company marketing. A major factor in this is the drive towards healthier eating, and soy is counted amongst the ranks of foods studied for their nutritional benefits. But food safety, in relation to animal food scares such as BSE and bird flu, also has a part to play in increasing the number of people who eat non-meat meals once or twice a week - people Klein Essink calls "part-time vegetarians". During a time of meat crisis, more people will try meat-free options. Although most tend to go back to eating meat afterwards, they have been introduced to the alternatives and are more likely to consider them in place of meat on occasions. A further demonstration that industry and consumers are becoming more open to soy and is that manufacturers of meat products are drawing attention to the presence of vegetable proteins as a beneficial attribute. Meat products have actually contained soy in the past, making up three to five per cent of the overall protein content. Now, however, they may claim to be "enriched with vegetable proteins". Moreover some companies have developed products with 50-50 meat-vegetable protein, or which contain real frozen vegetables. One example of this is the Dutch company Enkco, which has introduced a range called Fit & Good. Klein Essink stressed that such meat-vegetable combo products are not included in the meat-free foods research. Europe's first meat-free conference will take place in Cologne this autumn, as part of the Anuga trade show.
The European meat-free foods category is ready to enter growth phase following a period of consolidation, says Prosoy, just as consumers are becoming more aware of health benefits of soy and are more prepared to meat-free meals on occasions.