In Italy 100% vegetable advances, vegan moves back. This is what emerged from the Salone Marca in Bologna from the companies in the food sector operating in the sector. What is the difference between 100% vegetable and vegan is easy to say: the first concerns exclusively food, perhaps linked to the peasant tradition and the idea of naturalness, while the second instead brings with it, in addition to a lifestyle that does not allow , for example, the use of leather in clothing or detergents created with animal fats, an aura of “religiosity” that sometimes distances the consumer from the packaging. This is an all-Italian scenario, where vegan is sought by perhaps 2% of consumers, accepted by about 3%, but avoided by 95%. Beyond the Alps vegan is synonymous with cool, in Italy to an animal rights sect that punishes itself at the table.
Therefore, the first vegan products appear that do not claim to be such in Italy, but carry brands with a green “V” if packaged for foreign countries, the “vegetable” indication winks at flexitariani (those who prefer to follow a vegetarian-type diet, without renouncing to eat sporadically animal proteins) and resist a narrow niche indicated with “vegan”, mostly due to the need for large distribution to have this type in the assortment, to complete of the range.
The success of the soups
«Verso Natura Veg products – explains Alessandra Corsi, marketing director of the offer and MDD Conad – have performances and trends similar to those of the reference market. They were born in 2016, after an initial period of growth, the trends are slowing down. I believe that the main cause is given by meat substitutes, for example burgers, since they are not yet rewarding from an organoleptic point of view: goodness is a prerequisite and, when lacking, it does not help. Another problem of this type of food is that sometimes to obtain a better taste they are added with spices, aromas and / or stabilizers with the result of long ingredient lists, while today the new macro trend is simplicity, that is recipes that enhance a few raw materials, very close to naturalness. These must be rethought to offer consumers a more convincing offer: today they are appreciated only by a very small target, strictly vegan, who love guaranteed animal free foods. Most of our consumers, however, are the so-called flexitarians who, unfortunately, associate these products with a non-optimal organoleptic component. Among the established successes, however, there are vegetable soups, appreciated for their health and convenience components, and for their ease in preparing a meal ».
The lactose-free ones advance and vegetable drinks
“We must take into consideration that vegan – analyzes Alessandro Giani, trade marketing manager of Riso Scotti – is at the peak of what is a parable and that talking about vegan, in a narrow sense, excludes some realities that are evolving such as the world of intolerances and healthy food. Riso Scotti has been taking the vegetable path for many years, but has taken a step further: in 2019 it launched “lactose free” which in 2020 will see an offer of products suitable for vegans, for those who have problems with animal milk proteins or simply with cholesterol. The strength of this innovation is that it offers products suitable for the whole family but also for those consumers – in our data they are about 40% – who do not want to take lactose. In 2019 the line, which is transversal – biscuits, snacks, bars, spreadsetc -, it contributed 60% to the growth of the company, which closed last December with an increase of 5% in value in terms of turnover».
Giani continues: «Vegetable drinks are a sector that has changed from a niche market to a mass market. In this sector, Riso Scotti accused the entry of dangerous competitors. In 2020, however, we will renew the range in a logic of zero added sugars, offering modern flavors such as coconut and almond. Last but not least, there will be a great innovation, 100% vegetable, “Mu che bontà”, a drink based on rice and other natural ingredients, but with flavor and organoleptic characteristics very similar to cow’s milk. Also presented at Cibus will be the “Le vellutose” line of vegetable purées, steamed and organic, which can be stored out of the fridge with a shelf life of 12 months. The world of plant nutrition will certainly be the subject of growth, not so much in the vegan interpretation, but in vegetable in a healthy way; it must be reviewed and supervised, but through something new to say and must be seen with a high service content ».
Burger veggie alternative to meat
«It was 1989 – says Alberto Tonazzo, Kioene sales manager – when Albino Tonazzo of Macellerie Tonazzo had the intuition that an entirely vegetable diet was possible and necessary. He then created the Bioene brand – which became Kioene in 2003 – with 100% vegetable frozen first courses, which was followed in the 90s by the production of the first fresh burger labels, but the times were not ripe. In 2013 there was a sudden growth in sales, even if the decisive year was 2014, when Kioene entered the fresh shop: today vegetable products, as an alternative to meat for a niche of people, have become part of the daily diet. The 100% vegetable offer is such as to make the market saturated; the time has come to adapt and update it, both from a technological point of view and from an organoleptic point of view. Innovation is now a fundamental aspect to continue to maintain control of the counter and return the trust that consumers, increasingly informed and demanding, have given us up to now. There is a big difference with foreign countries: vegan, especially in Anglo-Saxon countries, is a more consolidated and mainstream lifestyle than in Italy. Furthermore, while in Italy it can still be traced back to a restrictive diet, it is not so abroad. On the contrary, it has a positive connotation, fun and also enjoyable to the extent that even vegan food has the aim of satisfying and satisfying in the same way as the conventional one. An objective that we want to achieve here too ».
If the quality requires less margin: the gnocchi vegan
“The demand for vegan products in the last year – says Alberto Bianco, Master Gnocchi – has remained constant for the simple reason that we are not pushing it because it is not strategic: our vegetable product for Italy is also organic, therefore created with raw materials that cost two to three times more than conventional ones, but which can usually be resold in large-scale distribution with an increase of 20%, with less margin than traditional ones. Different speech for abroad: in England, at Waitrose, the sales of “Dell’Ugo” brand gnocchi created with conventional vegetable ingredients, are increasing by 15 – 20% every year. We are very attentive to this market trend and it is not certain that in the future also for Italy we cannot think of removing the egg from some recipes as we already do for certain private label customers ».
The success of the naturally vegetable
«Freeg – informs the owner of the family-run company Enzo Marini – since it was born 10 years ago, it has been producing wraps without gluten and without other allergens, therefore vegan by nature. When we started, we put 5 cartons on the market a day. Then we increased our sales thanks to important partnerships but were affected by the entry of gluten free in the large-scale retail trade, which at first snubbed us, but then chose us, allowing us to grow. For a year we have been debuting abroad with a second product, one wrap (pastry to roll)with the same characteristics of the piadina, allergen free and 100% vegetable ».
“Today the vegan – continues Marini – has found its balance and is not sought too much, as indeed the products without palm oil, which had a boom 2 years ago”.
«Roncadin – reports the managing director Dario Roncadin – 2 years ago he created for Italy the first vegan pizza with a vegetable alternative to mozzarella, made of rice milk. It had an initial boom, then the requests dropped slightly, but always remained within an interesting market niche, 5% of our brand sales. Our customers, large-scale distribution and final consumer, are looking for a variety of products, they are no longer habitual but want to range and we must be able to offer different choices. This is why we have developed proposals without animal derivatives, but at the moment they are for foreign countries. The “Tuscan Garden” with the Monteli brand, for example, is a pizza without fake cheese, created with exclusively vegetable raw materials, really enhanced. It is going very well, but we have chosen not to sell it in Italy, where, as far as pizza is concerned, there is now no room for other vegetable references, while on other types there certainly is ».
«We have decided – reveals Federico Tartarughi, responsible for the Italian market of the Belgian Beldessert – to include vegan desserts in the first months of 2019 to meet the demand. The demand, albeit small, continued to be present during the year and we think it could grow in the near future, so much so that we will expand the range: the next will be a cheesecake ».
To know more
● Vegetarians and vegans on the rise in Italy: they are 8.9% of the population
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