If you’ve noticed, the vegan trend has particularly taken off in the past 3-5 years and appears to be accelerating, with the Euromonitor International predicting that by 2020 Australia’s packaged vegan food market would be worth $215 million. Valued so highly, the health food industry has had to rethink and reconsider its current offerings to fit in with public demand. Bulk Nutrient’s Managing Director, Ben Crowley, sheds some light on the changing nature of food products and the direction the health food industry is heading for the vegan consumer.

The emerging vegan trend has been both a great opportunity and threat to the supplement and packaged food industry. Vegans, as commonly known, do not eat any foods that are either an animal or an animal bi-product. Here lies the challenge but also the window for innovation to design products just for the vegan consumer.

For years, “Whey Protein”, which is made from milk and cheese has been the prominent source of nutritional goods for consumers and whey protein is the basis for almost every protein shake in the health food market. When the vegan trend started to rapidly grow, there was a massive gap in products available, where vegans did not have a readily available source of protein that could fit into their diets and exercise regimes, with the same nutritional value.

Soy Protein (which is a plant based protein) has been around for decades, although it has some hormone related side effects which can be particularly problematic to men. Over the last 3- 5 years, the industry has seen a wider variety of plant based proteins like rice, pea and even hemp becoming popular alternatives as they do not have these side effects. As refinement techniques of plant proteins are improving all the time, they taste better than ever.

The vegan trend gives savvy companies the opportunity to meet the needs of an emerging market while working closely with customers to ensure flavour and taste standards are met. Plant based protein supplements are a recent phenomenon. These proteins are carefully refined to reduce fats and carbs, while having a higher amount of protein per serve compared to plant based sources like tofu, mushroom, chickpeas and lentils. Ironically, vegans get a greater benefit from protein supplements than non-vegans, as natural plant based protein foods are high in carbohydrates.

The plant based market will continue to grow further as companies develop RTD (ready-to-drink) products and convenience foods like bars and bites for this growing market.