Prosoy, a research and strategy consultancy, values the European market from meat-free and tofu products at €1.2bn in 2006, a five per cent increase on the previous year. But a stakeholder analysis conducted in The Netherlands indicates that growth could be faster if products are marketed in line with how consumers view their own diet. Director Gerard Klein Essink told FoodNavigator.com that four to five per cent of consumers in The Netherlands (Prosoy's home country) are true vegetarians. Fifty to 60 per cent are 'part-time vegetarians' - that is, people who do not eat meat every day but will sometimes chose opt for plant-based foods such as soy. The problem is that these so-called part-time vegetarians do not consider themselves as such. Rather, they would say they eat a varied diet, including fish, soy, vegetables, fruit, pulses as well as meat. Their motivation may be awareness of the relationship between diet and health, or driven by meat-related food scares like BSE. This means that the word 'vegetarian' does not draw them in to a product that does not contain meat. Food companies catering to this sector are Klein Essink told FoodNavigator.com that the ideal word is something of a holy grail. One option could be to communicate using colours, pictograms and signs. For instance, you do not usually see pork, lamb and beef categories in the supermarket. Rather, they may be indicated subtly by the colour of tray - pink for pork, yellow for chicken, etc. In the same vein, meat-free products could be packaged in green, or bear the logo of a plant. Another option could be to call the category plant-based. The benefit of this, said Klein Essink, as opposed to the meat-free term used in the UK market, is that it has more positive connotations of what is actually in the product - as opposed to what is not there. "Meat-free in the UK evolved over time," he said. While he said it is "not a bad category denomination" he does not think it will endure in the long term. Plant-based, on the other land, could have legs since research is stacking up on the health advantages of consuming plants, and awareness is increasing too. Prosoy's stakeholder analysis on the meat-free category was carried out for the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture, nature and Food Quality. The consultancy is hosting its first International Meat-Free Conference in Cologne, Germany, on October 11th and 12th. Positioning for growth has been identified as a major theme for this event.
Vegetarian is an outmoded term for products that do not contain meat, yet meat-free does not communicate positive advantages of plant-based products, says Prosoy, which believes careful positioning could draw in more consumers.