‘Risk averse’ EU industry shunning fermented food trend

By John Reynolds

- Last updated on GMT

‘Risk averse’ EU industry shunning fermented food trend
Growing public interest in fermented foods in Spain and France is not being seized upon by European food companies and retailers because they are too “risk averse and conservative”, according to the author of a new report into the trend.

Julian Mellentin, lead author of ‘Fermentation: how to make a trend into an opportunity’ by food advisory group New Nutrition Business, said there was a clear schism between slow moving mainland Europe which was at odds with Asia and the English-speaking world, which are embracing new food trends.

“Consumers in Europe are very interested in this area of fermentation but industry has not woken up to it yet,” ​Mellentin told NutraIngredients.

Global growth in fermented foods, which show they can aid digestion, continues to grow, powered by a 16 percent year-on-year leap in sales in kefir and seven percent rise in kombucha in 2016, with an increasing number of consumers enticed by their health benefits, says the report.

The rise in popularly of fermented teas, sauerkraut, kefir, kimchi, pickles, vinegars, tempeh and other fermented foods has also been aided by the probiotic dairy market-which previously met consumer demand for improving digestion- peaking, the report says.

The $6.9bn US yoghurt market saw just 0.5 percent sales growth last year, according to IRI figures, as consumers switched to newer categories such as fermented ready-to-eat vegetable snacks to ease their health concerns.

“Digestive wellness, the strongest and longest-lasting trend, is key to the success of fermentation,”​ said Mellentin.

“Fermented vegetables are a well-established idea in consumers’ mind. Offering a fermented chilled vegetable-based snack that is ready-to-eat can connect to that idea of traditional use and be credible.”


The growing importance of the new wave of fermented foods was underscored by PepsiCo’s purchase of probiotic drinks maker KeVita for around $200m last year, helping tilt PepsiCo’s portfolio towards drinks that are in the health and wellness space.

The purchase highlighted how PepsiCo is shifting its strategy towards buying smaller companies with bags of potential, unlike Danone and Unilever, which were “locked into the old way of thinking” of ​only buying big, established companies, said Mellentin.

Rhythm Health, which makes coconut-based kefir beverages and snacks, is one company which has tapped into consumer demand for dairy-free, gluten-free and no added sugar products.

Brian Owens, Rhythm Health founder, said that sauerkraut market was currently ‘exploding’ in the UK, despite traditional fermented foods not being closely associated with the UK.

He told NutraIngredients there was no longer ‘peaks and troughs’ in the UK fermented foods market but it was “just content business all the way through.”

Despite this, he said that big retailers, such as Tesco, were slow to adopt to the potential of fermented foods in the UK.

“They are slow off the mark when it comes to pushing innovative brands forward,”​ he added.

Mellentin said that retailers in mainland Europe “struggle to make space for these new concepts.”

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