The New Vegetarian
While the market for organic products is leveling off rather than showing the dramatic growth it endured in the first decade of the 21st century, the trend toward sustainability has only gathered pace during the economic downturn. For example, U.S. retailer Trader Joe’s has promised to only stock sustainable seafood by December 31, 2012. Specifically marketing products as “sustainably sourced” is from a tiny base, with Innova Market Insights tracking just 41 products in the last 12 months containing these exact words globally (April 2009-March 2010), up from just 14 in the previous 12 months. Activity in sustainably sourced ingredients is particularly evident in soybeans, palm oil, coffee and cocoa.
Additionally, there is increased concern for animal welfare, spurred on, in part, by films like Robert Kenner’s Food, Inc., which “lifts the veil on our nation’s food industry, exposing the highly mechanized underbelly that has been hidden from the American consumer with the consent of our government’s regulatory agencies, USDA and FDA.”
The market shift to address the more environmentally conscious consumer is also having the impact of creating a new vegetarian. Innova Market Insights reported a recent surge in “vegetarian” positioned products, with 990 new products tracked in 2009, up from 484 in 2008 and 427 in 2007. Manufacturers are increasingly promoting their products to be vegetarian, so it is not just simply a case of more vegetarian product launches, the researcher noted, however. Some brands have developed their own packet icons or symbols (more prevalent now on front-of-pack) to denote the product is vegetarian, making it easy for consumers to make the choice. Over 20% of the new U.S. products making a vegetarian claim fall in the chocolate segment, followed by cereal and energy bars (16.5%) and meat substitutes (13.2%).
The new vegetarian consumer is not the stereotypical left-wing environmentalist of the past, but does share concerns about the impact heavy meat consumption is having on the environment and also on their own health. A new 2010 HealthFocus report called “Shades of Green” investigated the depth of consumer concerns over the treatment of animals, among other things. Of the total group sampled in the study, on average, 25% consumed vegetarian foods once or more per week; however, 53% of the “greenest” group ate vegetarian foods once or more per week. (See chart in print “Types of Green Consumers.”)
People most interested in the environment and sustainability also maintain a stronger interest in many other things related to diet, one of which is vegetarian foods. They are “more interested in vegetarian foods than in maintaining a vegetarian diet; however, vegetarian as an option, not a lifestyle,” explained Barbara Katz of HealthFocus International. “When it comes to interest in the treatment of animals in the food supply, these groups were also very concerned, when compared to the Mainstream and Green (MS&G) group. However, this was the area that tweaked the MS&G group the most,” she added.
The new vegetarian emerging, therefore, will not necessarily choose for an exclusively vegetarian diet, but may simply opt to have a “meatless Monday.” Advocates of this philosophy claim, “Going meatless once a week may reduce your risk of chronic, preventable conditions, like cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity. It can also help reduce your carbon footprint and save precious resources, like fresh water and fossil fuel.”
This new, occasionally vegetarian consumer is inundated with information, such as 4.8lbs of grain are fed to cattle in order to make 1lb of beef; they believe this represents a colossal waste of resources in a world teeming with hungry and malnourished people. Paul McCartney’s Meat Free Monday campaign points to research from the UK’s Food Climate Research Network, suggesting food production from farm to fork is responsible for between 20-30% of global green house gas emissions. Livestock production is responsible for around half of these emissions. “The more meat we produce and eat, the bigger that carbon footprint will get. A sustainable future demands that we cut down, and yet, between 1961-2007, the world population increased by a factor of 2.2, but, meat consumption quadrupled, and poultry consumption increased 10-fold,” the campaign claims.
Long outspoken vegetarian Paul McCartney and his daughters, Stella and Mary, launched Meat Free Monday in the UK in August 2009, in a bid to raise awareness about the climate-changing effects of meat production and consumption. In the U.S., the Meatless Monday campaign started in 2003, as a non-profit public health initiative of The Monday Campaigns, in association with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. The campaign recently enjoyed a major coup, with the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voting unanimously in favor of legislation to promote a meat- and fish-free start to the week in the U.S.’s 12th most populous city in April. The resolution “urge[s] all restaurants, grocery stores and schools to offer a greater variety of plant-based options to improve the health of San Francisco residents and visitors, and to increase the awareness of the impact a green diet would have on our planet.” San Francisco is the first American city to embrace Meatless Monday and follows in the footsteps of Ghent in Belgium, which went meat-free (albeit on a Thursday) last year.
Mainstream consumers will, however, only go meatless if serious tasty alternatives exist for them to enjoy. Luckily, the quality of food products positioned as vegetarian has improved dramatically. Many advances have occurred in meat substitute products in recent years, which can better mimic the texture of meat; they are created with various other protein sources, including soy protein or tofu (made from coagulated soy milk). Innova Market Insights tracked 405 new meat substitute products globally in the last year (April 2009-March 2010), 186 of which were reported in the U.S. This is comparably more to the 289 launches in the previous 12 months (April 2008-March 2009), 110 of which were recorded on the U.S. market. Many innovations fall into the ready meals segment, allowing consumers to combine vegetarianism with convenience.
New product development has been led by Kellogg’s, through its Morningstar Farms brand, with 21 new products tracked in the last 12 months. Kellogg’s reported in April that the brand continues to perform well, growing internal net sales 5% in the first quarter. The Morningstar Farms line now includes new vegetarian ready meal options, like Sweet & Sour Chik’n, which consists of tender nuggets of breaded veggie “chik’n,” pineapple and peppers in a tangy sauce over whole-grain rice. Grillers Turk’y Burger is promoted as a juicy, California-style veggie “turk’y” burger, with 37% less fat and a great blend of avocados and tomatoes. Meanwhile, new Grillers Turk’y Burger (64g) contains 5g fat per serving, when compared with regular pan-fried ground turkey (64g), which contains 8g fat per serving.
Innova Market Insights tracked 16 new products from Marlow Foods subsidiary Quorn during this period. Quorn produces a meat substitute based on mycoprotein from fungi sources. The brand recently underwent a serious makeover, switching to a new logo and packaging with a friendly orange look, in an apparent move to give Quorn a less serious vegetarian image. Recent additions to the brand in the UK include Quorn Roast Style Sliced Fillets, as a base for a great salad or pita bread, Sweet Chilli Stir Fry Strips, Seasoned Steak Strips and Quorn Mini Balls.
The Hain Celestial Group owns the Yves Veggie brand, with 16 meat substitutes tracked from this brand during this period. New from the brand is Yves Veggie Chorizo, a sausage seasoned with traditional chorizo spices. Cholesterol free and a good source of protein, it is also claimed to contain 80% less fat and 50% less sodium than regular chorizo. The product is formulated with textured soy protein concentrate.
A true innovation to the meat substitute aisle came in 2005, when Campina (now merged with Friesland Foods) launched Valess in the Dutch market. The product is made from fresh dairy produce and fiber and contains less fat and relatively more polyunsaturated fatty acids than meat. Last year, new products began appearing in Germany to expand the Valess banner there. Innovations in Germany included Valess Schnitzel Meat Free Fillets in Breadcrumbs Coating and Valess Light Gouda Fillets with a Milner cheese filling. In the Netherlands, the brand is addressing the trend towards using the wok at home, with smaller pieces of Valess with a specific marinade being offered in the forms of Ready to Wok Thai Green Curry, Shanghai Sweet and Sour, and Bombay Curry.
But, reducing meat consumption does not necessarily mean cutting it out altogether. The Dutch market has also reported development in the meat hybrid space, where meatless is beginning to make inroads, based on a technique which was invented and developed in 2006. Meatless is a 100% vegetable hydrated fiber and is an excellent basic material for the production of vegetable meat-free products. Last summer, the concept began being taken further with the testing of a Meatlight concept at regional retailer Agrimarkt, where meat is fused with Meatless in the creation of a hybrid product that is promoted as lower in fat and better for the environment. According to the company, the products contain 20% vegetable ingredients, such as wheat, resulting in a calorie and fat content that is only half that of conventional products. Fat percentages vary between 6-12%, and all products are marked with the GDA (Guideline Daily Amount) directive.
But, certain consumers will go much further than cutting back or avoiding meat consumption, embracing a vegan diet whereby animal products (including milk) are completely avoided. While development in dairy alternatives clearly plays more into the hands of those suffering from lactose intolerance, the trend has opened up more options for vegans who wish to consume a dairy alternative.
Innova Market Insights reported 525 new dairy alternative launches globally in 2009, up slightly from 2008 (505), but dramatically from 2007, when 352 new products were tracked. The U.S. market was the most active in 2009 for new dairy alternative launches, with 70 new products tracked. Innova Market Insights recently reported ingredients such as soybeans, oats and rice are more prevalent options for dairy alternative drinks; they are becoming more attractive to consumers with enticing flavors, such as chocolate, fruit juice, guarana, basil, aloe vera and green tea. More interesting is the emergence of new dairy alternatives, such as hemp, kamut, quinoa, almonds, barley, rye and corn extracts. 2009 saw the start of new product launch activity for quinoa and hemp milk products, with Jardin Bio Quinoa (France), Manitoba Harvest Hemp Bliss (Canada) and Living Harvest Tempt Hemp (U.S.) rolling out their milk ranges with various flavor options.
While new dairy alternatives are on the radar, the development in the use of soy is continuing unabated. Soy is renowned for its natural cholesterol-reducing properties, due to its isoflavones and soluble fiber content, which aids in the reduction of cholesterol circulation in the blood for improved heart health. Recent innovation in the soy arena is demonstrated by the launch of a dairy-free cheese based on soy. Schardinger Vida Sana con Soja (Spain) consists of cheese slices made with soy protein.
In the UK, there are now 30 top-range vegetarian restaurants, up by 50% since 2007, according to Alex Bourke, founder and compiler of the vegetarian guides to meat-free eating in several countries, including England. According to a recent article in the The Guardian, the number of high-end vegetarian eateries is rising fast, despite the recession. This growth is prompted by culinary innovation by leading chefs, interest in healthy lifestyles and a growing belief that carnivorous cuisine is bad for the environment. The majority of the food enthusiasts are the increasing number of meat-eaters who are now consuming less meat--so-called “meat-reducers,” the article noted. A market for a new breed of vegetarian is opening up, and opportunities will emerge for creative food product developers, who can achieve great taste without incorporating meat into their latest creation. pf
Nutrition and Vegetarians
The ADA asserts that even the restrictive vegan diet can be a healthy diet. However, the lacto-ovo vegetarian diet, often reported to be the most common type of vegetarian diet in Western countries (www.ivu.org/faq/definitions.html), likely has the least nutritional challenges. Both milk and eggs offer very high-quality protein, as well as other nutrients. For example, according to the 2009 USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, one large, hard-boiled egg contains significant quantities of choline (112.7mg), selenium (15.4mcg), riboflavin (0.257mg) and vitamin B-12 (0.56mcg), among many other nutrients. This amount is over 20% of the Daily Value for choline and selenium.