Europeans are increasingly opting for soya-based alternatives to dairy and meat products, according to new research from PROSOY.

In 2002 the market for soya-based drinks and desserts, and meat-free and tofu products in Europe reached a value of €1.3bn (US$1.5bn), with further double digit growth expected for the period 2003 - 2005.

Per capita consumption of soya-based drinks and desserts has grown by over 20% in 2002 and is currently as large as the per capita consumption of meat-free and tofu products in Europe.

"The demand for soya-based milks, yoghurts and desserts is growing as a result of changes in lifestyle, growing food intolerance and allergies, as well as the positive health image of soya," comments Gerard Klein Essink, senior researcher at PROSOY Research & Strategy.

"New European health claims regulations under preparation are also likely to have an impact, since medical research on soya has already shown positive effects on blood cholesterol levels and heart diseases, bone strength and menopausal problems," adds Klein Essink.

New product development

Innovation has played a large part in the growth of this market, particularly in the soya-based milks sector, increasingly offered through the chilled sections of supermarkets - the traditional arena for new product development, rather than in the long-life sections.

Mintel's Global New Products Database (GNPD) indicates over 50 new soya-based milk product launches in 2002 in Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and the UK.

"The UK market for soya-based milks, yoghurts and desserts is the largest in Europe with over 30% of the market. This vibrant market has grown by more than 20% in 2002 and is expected to continue growing by such rates in the coming years. The German market was the fastest growing market with over 40% in 2002, while Belgians eat and drink the most soya-based milks and beverages, yoghurts and desserts in Europe, consuming more than 2 litres each per annum," says Klein Essink.

The brand leaders in Europe are Alpro's Provamel and Alpro brands. Other pan-European brands are the Bjorg brand of Tree of Life Europe and Sojasun of Laiterie Triballat-Noyal. The soya-based dairy free sector is expected to continue showing well above 15% growth in the period until 2006.