Sarah Phelan, Paris Office, Bord Bia –Irish Food Board
Veganism is mainstreaming amongst more and more younger consumers in Europe. With numerous studies showing that vegans are at risk of deficiency of certain micronutrients (most notably vitamin B12, vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, iron and zinc), a huge opportunity has presented itself for micronutrient producers.
With that being said, European consumers prefer to take their nutrients from food and drink, rather than from foods with added nutrients. This demand for ‘natural nutrition’ is a challenge for producers of supplements and fortified or functional foods for vegans.
Some producers of vegan dairy products are taking efforts to make their products a nutritional match to conventional dairy. However, just 25% of vegan dairy product launches (between September 2011 and August 2017) featured vitamin B12 as a nutrient on-pack. Just 3% of vegan processed fish, meat, and egg products listed vitamin B12 as a nutrient on-pack. (Mintel, 2017)
Vitamin B12 occurs naturally in foods of animal origin such as dairy, meat, fish and eggs and is essential for reducing tiredness as well as for the normal function of our immune and nervous systems. The UK’s Vegan Society states that the only reliable vegan sources of vitamin B12 are foods fortified with B12 (including some plant milks, some soy products and some breakfast cereals) and B12 supplements. As the veganism trend continues, consumers’ interest in vitamin B12 will grow, bringing new opportunities for food and drink products fortified with vitamin B12.
All that considered, vegans want quick and easy solutions to help them get sufficient vitamin B12 into their diets, which may bring opportunities for producers of snacks and drinks fortified with vitamin B12, outside of plant-based dairy, and meat substitutes. In 2016, 25% of snack bars were described as vegan, up from 12% in 2013. (Mintel, 2017) As more snack bars claim to be natural, additive-free and nutritious, vegan brands will need to find fresh angles to help their products stand out from the crowd. Addition of B12 could well be the winning ticket.
Considering that vegan products capture the imagination not only of strict vegans but of a much wider, “flexitarian” consumer base, NPD in this area could provide companies with essential opportunities to get ahead in the game.
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