Vegan products remain a small niche in the vegetarian market, although they have benefited from recent NPD activity aimed at consumers with food intolerance.
Increased publicity about lactose intolerance has helped move soya products into the mainstream.
Alpro and So Good both produce fresh soya milk, merchandising it next to dairy equivalents. Adverts for So Good promote health messages such as ‘Actively lowers cholesterol’, ‘Builds strong bones’ and ‘Helps maintain a healthy heart’.
Tofu - fermented soya bean curd - is also dairy-free and can be used as a substitute for milk, cheese and butter.
Blue Dragon brand manager Gill Russell says tofu shakes are becoming a popular drink among those keen to boost their protein levels.
She says: “There is growing consumer interest in foods which boost your health and lower cholesterol, leading us to believe that tofu is set to make a big impact on the British diet this year.”
Development activity continues on milk alternatives, as milk falls from favour with lactose intolerant non-vegans.
Vance’s DariFree - a potato milk product from the US - was one of the most unusual products on display at last month’s Food and Drink Expo show in Birmingham. Suitable for people who are gluten, soya and dairy intolerant, it is high in calcium and marketed as a cholesterol and fat-free alternative to milk.
Dominic Dyer, who chairs the Food and Drink Federation’s vegetarian (meat-free)
manufacturing liaison group says suppliers have their eyes on the potential of other vegan offerings, but it is not a big enough opportunity to justify a great deal of investment. He says the fact that manufacturers cannot use eggs or milk in vegan products takes away a lot of taste and reduces what they can produce.
Dalepak meat-free marketing manager Charlotte Telford backs him up: “Vegan is a niche area within the vegetarian market and, at the present time, Dalepak has no plans to produce vegan products,” she says.