Alpro is aiming to capitalise on consumers’ fears as well as their growing health awareness with a new marketing initiative for its soy-based foods. Although there is growing interest in foods that are free from certain ingredients, manufacturers must be aware of the dangers that marketing down this route entails.

Alpro, the Belgian based maker of soy milk, yoghurt and desserts is set to spend £5m (US$8.1m) on a promotional campaign targeted at two million UK consumers. Above and below the line promotional activity will be used, including TV and press advertising, PR and sponsorship, as well as a sampling campaign.

Alpro produces soy milk, which is used as milk substitute for people who require a dairy-free diet. The company has expanded into other soy-based foods with its widely recognized Provamel yoghurts and drinkable yoghurts. Now, the new marketing initiative aims to sell the benefits of a dairy-free diet to a new audience.

But according to the British Nutrition Foundation (BNF), the true prevalence of food intolerance is overestimated. Only about 5-8% of children and 1-2% of adults actually suffer from food intolerance, and even fewer suffer from food allergies – less than 2% of adults and 1% of children, according to the BNF.

Although by targeting consumers who do not have actual food allergies or intolerances, Alpro hopes to boost sales, it raises several problems. Not least of which is the taste issue – consumers will need convincing that soy-based foods taste as good as the dairy products they replace. Hence the sampling campaign.

Secondly, specialty ‘free from’ foods hit consumers in the wallet. The remarkable rise of organic foods has shown that consumers will pay a premium for healthier, safer foods, but there is no guarantee this will translate to soy-based dairy substitutes.

But perhaps most problematic in the long term is that it is increasingly difficult to ensure that soy products are free from genetically modified crops, whose presence could undermine the ethos of Alpro’s ‘free from’ approach. Having ridden the wave of consumer fears over health and food safety, it would be ironic indeed if Alpro fell foul of those same concerns.

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