Further confirmation that the European consumer is throwing more and more soy foods into his/her supermarket trolley comes from a new report that reveals in 2002 per capita consumption of soya-based drinks and desserts grew by over 20 per cent and is currently as large as the per capita consumption of meat-free and tofu products in Europe.
Combined the market for soya-based drinks and desserts and meat-free and tofu products in Europe reached a value of €1.3 billion. The survey predicts further double digit growth expected for the period 2003 - 2005.
The UK is heading up the list for soya-based milks, yoghurts and desserts as the largest in Europe with over 30 per cent of the market - a market that grew by more than 20 per cent in 2002 and is expected to continue growing by such rates in the coming years.
"The demand for soya-based milks, yogurts and desserts is growing as a result of changes in lifestyle, growing food intolerance and allergies, as well as the positive health image of soya," said Gerard Klein Essink, senior researcher at PROSOY.
New European health claims regulations under preparation are also likely to have an impact, since medical research on soya has already shown positive effects on blood cholesterol levels and heart diseases, bone strength and menopausal problems, he added.
As in many other food sectors, the report highlights the fact that innovation has played a large part in the growth of the soy foods market, particularly in the soya-based milks sector, 'increasingly offered through the chilled sections of supermarkets - the traditional arena for new product development, rather than in the long-life sections'.
Mintel's Global New Products Database (GNPD) indicates over 50 new soya-based milk product launches in 2002 in Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, Spain and the UK.
"The German market was the fastest growing market with over 40 per cent in 2002, while Belgians eat and drink the most soya-based milks and beverages, yoghurts and desserts in Europe, consuming more than 2 litres each per annum," said Klein Essink.
According to the report brand leaders in Europe are Alpro's Provamel and Alpro brands. Other pan-European brands are the Bjorg brand of Tree of Life Europe and Sojasun of Laiterie Triballat-Noyal. The soya-based dairy free sector is expected to continue showing well above 15 per cent growth in the period until 2006.
Analysts at PROSOY put the growth in meat-free products down to BSE and foot and mouth disease scares. The consumption of meat-free and tofu products in Europe varies from 0.02 kg in Italy to above 2 kg per capita in the United Kingdom. "Although growth declined in 2002 in many countries, the demand for meat-free and tofu products is likely to continue growing again in the coming years. Important drivers will continue to be a growing interest in healthy foods, an ageing and more health focussed population," said Klein Essink.
Tivall, one of the leaders in the European meat-free market, uses soya as the key ingredient in its product range and is likely to be an important 'soya' player in the future, both through their own brand and private label partnerships, predicts the market report.
Innovation through new product development is again one of the main category drivers - close to 70 new products were tracked by Mintel's GNPD in the various countries in 2002.