On impressive growth of 10 per cent, the market for soy-based drinks and desserts, as well as meat-free and tofu products is far from tailing off, with new data from market analysts Prosoy suggesting the double-digit growth will continue for the next three years.
The positive health image of soya, claims Gerard Klein Essink, a researcher at Prosoy, combined with the impact of changes in lifestyle, and growing food intolerance and allergies, have contributed to the growth in this market.
In 2004 the European market for dairy-free products based on soya grew by a massive 22 per cent, to well above €400 million.
And the availability of new soy-based milk products and meat-free concepts in the chilled sections of supermarkets has had a very positive effect on the consumer demand, say the researchers.
Over 100 new products were launched in Europe, representing an increase of 54 per cent compared to 2003.
The unappetising 'beany' taste of soy has, for food makers, been a considerable barrier to absorbing the protein into food formulations. But innovations are helping to overcome this obstacle and, in effect, boost sales.
In June, for example, leading yoghurt brand Yoplait introduced its Bioplait yoghurt to the French market. A first in France, the product combines both soy and dairy proteins for improved taste.
"To overcome the taste barrier, Yoplait decided to combine the soya with a dairy product and it has reduced the beany taste almost to zero," said Hubertus Devroye, European marketing director at Solae.
The European market for meat-free products grew by 6 per cent in 2004 to €1.2 billion, in line with 2002 and 2003 growth, boosted by a leap in new products onto the market and new consumers attracted by the meat-alternatives.
According to Prosoy, the number of market introductions increased in 2004 by 60 per cent, to above 100.
"The market entry of international manufacturers such as the Nordic GoGreen group, the dairy company Campina and the large fresh meat company VION Food Group will further contribute to future market growth," adds the report.