Animal scares create demand for vegetarian ingredients

By Jess Halliday

- Last updated on GMT

Food safety fears have led to the emergence a new market in
vegetarian supplement ingredients, and industry insiders predicting
that as many as half of all ingredients could be non-animal derived
in the next ten years.

Scares such as BSE in cattle and avian 'flu in poultry have prompted consumers and marketers to cast about for supplements containing no animal derivatives, and that means ingredient companies are having to reconsider the carriers they use or develop synthetic variants or seek out vegetarian sources for many of their products.

Lukas Christian, global product manager for beta-carotene at DSM Nutritional Products, told that he believes the demand for non-animal ingredients stems not so much from growing numbers of traditional vegetarians, but from people who are concerned about diseases in certain animal species.

Christian said he does not expect that animal-derived ingredients to disappear completely, but that vegetarian versions are likely to be come more than a niche over the next five to 10 years, representing 30 to 50 percent of all ingredients.

DSM yesterday announced the launch of its new non-animal synthetic beta-carotene BetaTab 20% S, which joins CaroCare 7.5% percent beta carotene (from the Blakeslea trispora microorganism), All-Q coenzyme Q10, Optisharp zeaxanthin, lutein, vitamin A and vitamin E in the company's non-animal portfolio.

"If you have a complete portfolio of vegetarian ingredients, you will be prepared for any animal health-scare that breaks,"​ said Christian.

He said that the market is already quite competitive. For instance, BASF and Biodar have also both announced the vegetarian beta-carotene in recent months, and BASF has a vegetarian vitamin E.

Other companies that have made inroads into the market include Kemin Health, with its FloraGLO Lutein 5% VG Granules, and Cognis Nutrition & Health with Xangold 10% microencapsulated lutein ester beadlets.

Frost & Sullivan has not yet conducted any research that tracks vegetarian ingredients separately, but analyst Kathie Brownlie agreed that the market is driven by crises - and it did not exist a decade ago.

"General vegetarian ingredients also have a healthy image, and that certainly helps,"​ she said.

Christian also identified subtleties in the trend in different markets. For example in Asia consumers are not concerned about fish gelatin but in Europe there has been some discussion over allergens in fish.

This is an area that Cargill has picked up on with its fungus-derived glucosamine hydrocholoride. Part of the motivation behind this is fluctuating shrimp supply from Asia, but the fact that it is allergen-free, vegetarian and kosher is a unique selling point.

When it comes to gelatine, however, a common carrier and the animal derivative that supplement users are most familiar with since it is used as the delivery system for soft gels, the concerns appear to be unfounded.

"We have totally proven that there is no link between gelatin and BSE,"​Oliver Wols of gelatine specialist The Gelita Group told

Wols explained that even if pathogens did find there way into the raw materials - and there are rigorous checks, including tests on the live animals, to prevent that from happening - the production process would kill off 10,000 more pathogens that could possibly be in it.

He added that no alternative has as much proof behind it for human consumption.

Chris Olivant of the UK's Vegetarian Society told that numbers of vegetarians tend to peak in the immediate aftermath of a animal health scare, but drop back down to prior levels afterwards.

Overall he said vegetarianism has followed a steady upwards curve over the past decade.

A 2002 Datamonitor report estimated that there are around 12 million vegetarians in Europe.

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