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What is the demand for natural ingredients for health products on the European market?

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Increasing consumer demand for natural supplements and an ageing population make Europe a promising market for natural ingredients for health products. European companies are launching new natural health products and some are replacing synthetic ingredients with natural ones in product formulations. European consumers are also receptive to trying complementary and alternative medicines, which is also stimulating demand for natural ingredients. Western European countries appeal the most to exporters of natural ingredients in developing countries.

Sector description

In the context of this report, health products are defined as substances such as vitamins, minerals, supplements, traditional medicines, herbal medicines and homeopathic preparations. Natural ingredients used in health products can have functional and active properties.

This report analyses demand for natural ingredients for health products, including essential oils, botanicals, such as turmeric, baobab, moringa, açai berry, aloe vera, seaweeds and plant-based proteins.

1. What makes Europe an interesting market for natural ingredients for health products?

Europe is a significant producer, exporter and consumer of pharmaceuticals. It is an important market for pharmaceuticals, nutraceuticals and complementary and alternative medicine products. The market is forecast to grow partly because Europe has an ageing population. Consumer demand for healthier and more natural products with greater efficacy is encouraging European companies to invest in research and development and look for natural ingredients.

There are many opportunities in the European market for suppliers of natural ingredients from developing countries. Demand for natural ingredients is increasing, including those from developing countries, especially because many such ingredients have functional and unique properties.

The global market for pharmaceuticals grew to USD 1.2 trillion in 2018, an increase of USD 100 billion compared to 2017, according to IQVIA. The market is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 3 to 6 percent to USD 1.5 trillion by 2023. Chart 1 shows that Europe has the second largest pharmaceutical market in the world, with a 22% share, after North America, which has a 48% share, while Japan is in third place with an 8% share.

According to the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA), the European pharmaceutical market was worth €213.4 billion in 2018. Production of the European pharmaceutical industry reached EUR 260 billion in 2018. Europe is also a significant exporter of pharmaceuticals, boasting an export value of EUR 435.5 billion in 2018.

The number of applications of natural ingredients in pharmaceuticals is increasing. The main reasons for this trend are the increasing availability, relatively low costs, lower toxicity and the more favourable side effect profiles of natural ingredients.

However, the use of natural ingredients in pharmaceuticals also has one major drawback: safety. The risks of microbial and heavy metal contamination are higher because the quality of natural ingredients depends on crops, which are influenced by soil quality, environmental conditions and climate.

Natural ingredients are used in pharmaceuticals due to their functional and active properties. For example, they can be used as lubricants, binders, coating agents, preservatives, solvents, colouring agents, emulsifiers and flavouring agents.

The number of applications of natural ingredients in pharmaceuticals is expected to increase in the coming years. Consumers are demanding more natural products, including natural ingredients in medicine and pharmaceuticals.

Tips:

  • For more information on the European pharmaceutical market, visit the site of the EFPIA.
  • For more information on the trade in medicinal plants, visit the International Trade Center site INTRACEN.
  • Learn more about trends and common illnesses in Europe. This will help you decide what kind of ingredients to supply to the European market. Use this information when approaching European buyers.

Europe’s ageing population will increase the incidence of chronic disease in the future. This trend is expected to stimulate demand for pharmaceuticals. At the same time, consumers are interested in using natural products to improve their general well-being and prevent illness.

In 2019, the European dietary supplements market was valued at USD 14.95 billion, and is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 9.3 percent from 2019 to 2027 to USD 33.8 billion by 2027.

The global complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) market was worth USD 69.2 billion in 2019, according to Grand View Research. It is expected that the market will be growing at a compound annual growth rate of 19.9 percent by 2027. Europe is the second largest market followed by Asia. Studies have shown that the most commonly used CAM treatment is massage therapy, used by 11.9 percent of the population, followed by homeopathy (5.7 percent), osteopathy (5.2 percent), herbal treatments (4.6 percent), acupuncture (3.6 percent), chiropractic (2.3 percent), reflexology (1.7 percent) and spiritual healing (1.3 percent).

This data tells us that the prospects for suppliers of natural ingredients for health products are good in Europe. The consumer market in Europe is growing steadily. European consumers tend to have relatively high disposable incomes. Increasing corporate investment in innovation and R&D makes Europe an attractive export destination for suppliers of natural raw materials.

Tips:

  • Focus more on the nutraceutical market, as opposed to pharmaceuticals. In Europe, natural ingredients are used in much larger quantities in the supplements sector and the complementary and alternative medicine sector than in allopathic medicine.
  • Visit trade fairs where you can find buyers for the nutraceutical sector. Examples include Vitafoods Europe and Health Ingredients. Due to COVID19 pandemic, many trade fairs offer virtual events, which might be easier for exporters in developing countries to attend than in-person gatherings. 
  • Show your buyers how your ingredients can help consumers to improve their health and well-being. Focus on the nutritional or health aspects of your ingredients when supplying active ingredients. Do not make medical claims. More information on EU regulations with regard to claims can be found on the European Commission website.
  • See the CBI study on regulatory requirements for natural ingredients for health products, which provides an overview of regulations for exporting natural ingredients for health products to Europe.

2. Which European markets offer most opportunities for natural ingredients for health products?

Western European countries such as Germany, Italy, France, the Netherlands, the UK and Spain are the most attractive country markets for suppliers of natural ingredients for health products. These countries have the biggest consumer markets and large companies that use natural ingredients to make health products. The Netherlands is an important entry point for these natural ingredients.

Table 1: Leading country markets for pharmaceuticals and nutritional supplements

 

Pharmaceutical market value 2018 (Million EUR)

Supplements market value (Million EUR)

Germany

38531

2100 (2018)

France

28897

1900 (2019)

Italy

23769

3500 (2018)

UK

21151

424 (2018)

Spain

16375

920 (2018)

The Netherlands

5358

143.3 (2018)

Source: Various

Germany

Germany is one of the largest consumer markets in Europe for conventional and organic products. According to the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA), the German pharmaceutical market was valued at EUR 38.5 billion in 2018. Germany exported EUR 82.6 billion worth of pharmaceuticals in 2018.

According to IQVIA, the nutritional supplements market in Germany was worth EUR 2.1 billion in 2018. Vitamins and minerals account for about half of the market and supplements for heart and cardiovascular health, supplements for pain-relief and muscle and joint health, and immune boosting supplements account for 10 percent each. Probiotics and digestive system supplements and hair care, eye care and oral care supplements account for the remaining portion.

Important German traders of natural ingredients for health products include Denk Ingredients, Bio Import Europa and SanaBio. Some importers focus on certified ingredients. According to industry feedback, Germany is a promising market for natural ingredients suppliers for health products. The demand for natural and clean products in Germany continues to grow.

France                                             

The EFPIA valued the French pharmaceutical market at almost EUR 28.9 billion in 2018. The value of French pharmaceutical exports reached almost EUR 29.5 billion in 2018. The French food supplement market reached EUR 1.9 billion in 2019, representing growth of 1.3 percent compared to 2018.

Important traders of natural ingredients for health products in France include Nexira, Greentech, and Elixens. France also acts as a re-exporter of natural ingredients for health products to other European countries. Suppliers of natural ingredients from developing countries should target French buyers.

Italy

Italy has one of the largest consumer markets in Europe for conventional and organic products. The Italian pharmaceutical market was valued at EUR 23.6 billion in 2018 by the EFPIA. The value of Italian pharmaceutical exports reached EUR 24.9 billion in the same year. The Italian food supplements market was valued at EUR 3.5 billion in 2018. Around 83 percent of food supplements are sold in pharmacies.

Important traders of natural ingredients for health products include Baobab Fruit Company, Novachem Aromatici, and ACEF.

UK

The UK pharmaceutical market was valued at EUR 21.2 billion in 2018 by the EFPIA. The value of the UK’s pharmaceutical exports reached almost EUR 26.6 billion in 2018.

The UK has one of the largest consumer markets in Europe. There is an increasing demand for nutritional supplements;   the UK supplements market reached GBP 424 million in 2018, according to IRI. Around 59 percent of British consumers take one or more supplements. The most popular vitamins in the UK are vitamin D (33 percent), vitamin C (27 percent), vitamin B complex (15 percent), vitamin A (12 percent) and vitamin E (10 percent). More than half of vitamin users take multivitamins. 

Important traders of natural ingredients for health products include Organic Herb Trading Co, Super Nutrients and Aduna. A potential no-deal Brexit scenario may disrupt supply chains for natural ingredients for health products.  It may take some time to re-negotiate trade deals with developing countries.

Spain

According to the EFPIA, the Spanish pharmaceutical market was valued at EUR 16.4 billion in 2018. The value of Spanish pharmaceutical exports reached nearly EUR 10.5 billion in the same year. The Spanish nutritional supplements market was valued at EUR 920 million in 2018, according to the Association of Dietetic and Food Supplement Companies (AFEPADI).

Important traders of natural ingredients for health products include CHEMIR S.A. and Grupo Plimon, S.L.

The Netherlands

The Netherlands is a leading importer of natural ingredients to Europe. Most natural ingredients for health products are imported through traders and then re-exported to other European countries. Suppliers of natural ingredients in developing countries should target importers which usually re-export to other European countries. Important traders include Trading Organic, IMCD and De Lange.

The Netherlands is expected to remain an attractive market for exporters. The country is an important re-exporter of raw materials, such as essential oils, baobab and turmeric.

Natural ingredients are also used in the dietary supplements sector. Indeed, many consumers have traditionally bought supplements because of their natural ingredients as they offer a potential alternative to allopathic medicines.

Even though supplements are consumed by consumers of all ages, the demand is highest among the baby boomer generation (born between 1946 and 1964). Research shows that this generation is most concerned with both the origin and safety of ingredients in supplements. Approximately 71% of European shoppers say that they consider the absence of preservatives to be most important feature when purchasing supplements.

The most promising country markets for suppliers of natural ingredients in developing countries are the Western European countries as they are home to the biggest processing sector and consumer markets. Some of the largest producers of supplements and pharmaceuticals can also be found in Western European countries.

Tips:

  • Target health product companies in Western Europe. These countries are the biggest consumers and producers of pharmaceuticals and supplements. Consumers in these countries are also open to various modalities of complementary and alternative medicine.
  • There is an increasing demand for organic ingredients in countries such as Germany, France and Italy. If you offer certified ingredients, you should target buyers in these countries.
  • See the CBI study on finding buyers on the European market, which provides useful information on how to maximise your chances when looking for buyers on the European market.

3. Which products from developing countries have most potential in the European market?

Exports to Europe of natural ingredients for health products have a lot of potential. Many types of natural ingredients are used in pharmaceuticals, supplements and complementary and alternative medicine.

Turmeric, moringa, baobab, aloe vera, spirulina and essential oils are some of the most promising ingredients. These ingredients are in demand in both the pharmaceutical and nutraceutical sectors. Essential oils are also used in complementary and alternative medicine. Risks include companies that use a wide range of natural ingredients being able to easily switch ingredients according to market trends and consumer demand.

Essential oils

Essential oils are widely used in aromatherapy products. The value of the global aromatherapy market reached an estimated  USD 1.8 billion in 2018. The market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 10.4%, thanks mostly to the growing popularity and awareness of aromatherapy products. Aromatherapy can be used to treat a wide range of problems, including anxiety, depression, digestion, respiratory problems, insomnia and cardiovascular disorders.

Demand for essential oils is projected to rise in the coming years, mostly thanks to increasing consumer awareness of the beneficial properties of aromatherapy products. The expected growth is also associated with the rising popularity of supplements and herbal and Ayurvedic medicine.

Figure 2: Imports of essential oils to Europe

Imports of essential oils to Europe, 2015-2019

Source: Eurostat

Only about 20% of the essential oils imported to the EU are used in aromatherapy products and cosmetics, according to estimates. The demand is expected to continue to increase in the future.

The most important essential oils in terms of volume imported to Europe are orange, peppermint, and other mint oils, which are usually used in the food industry. Essential oils used in aromatherapy products include patchouli, ylang ylang, tea tree, sandalwood and nutmeg. The most promising country markets for these types of oils are France and Germany, as they are home to the biggest importers of essential oils. These countries also have important markets for aromatherapy products.

The other big importers of essential oils are Italy, Poland, the UK, Spain and the Netherlands. Many of these importing countries re-export essential oils to other countries. Germany, France and the UK are the biggest exporters of essential oils in Europe.

Exporters of essential oils from developing countries should avoid focusing on essential oils that can be sourced from Europe. France, for example, is a large European producer of essential oils. Lavender, lavandin, rose and clary sage, for instance, are all grown in France, where there is a significant aromatherapy and fragrance industry.

Suppliers in developing countries should focus on essential oils which are not grown in Europe. These include frankincense, patchouli, nutmeg, geranium, ylang ylang, sandalwood and lemongrass.

Tips:

  • Communicate the country of origin of your products clearly so your buyers pass this information on to end users.
  • Sustainable sourcing practices are becoming increasingly important for European buyers when buying essential oils. If you don’t have these measures in place already, you must be willing to improve your sustainability practices as required by buyers.
  • Look up documents that describe the properties, benefits and claims associated with essential oils used in aromatherapy. You can do this by visiting AromaWeb’s Essential Oils Directory which provides information about essential oil properties, uses and benefits of popular essential oils. Refer to publications, press releases and advertisements of your competitors.
  • Substantiate any claims that you make with sufficient data. See our study of aromatherapy for health products for additional information on the health uses and requirements with regard to aromatherapy oils.
  • Look up aromatherapy companies to see what claims they make about essential oils. Check the websites of companies that sell aromatherapy products in Europe, such as Farfalla Essentials (Switzerland), Neal’s Yard Remedies (the United Kingdom) Taoasis (Germany) and Primavera Life (Germany).
  • Read the CBI studies on Exporting essential oils to Europe as they provide further information about entering the European market and the European market potential.

Turmeric

Turmeric is becoming a popular ingredient in the European health products market. Known for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, turmeric is used as a supplement and in medical products to boost the immune and digestive systems and overall health.

Figure 3: Imports of turmeric to Europe

Imports of turmeric to Europe, 2015-2019

Source: Eurostat

Cultivated on the mainland and islands of the Indian Ocean, turmeric is native to South East Asia. Most turmeric imported into the EU comes from India, but other source countries include Thailand, Madagascar, Peru and Sri Lanka.  Figure 3 shows that the imports of turmeric to Europe have increased in terms of both value and volume over the last five years.

A major driver for demand for turmeric is the increasing lifespan of the European population. The growing number of health-conscious consumers in Europe is also driving the growth. Turmeric is well known as a spice in Europe due to the increasing popularity of ethnic cuisine. 

Demand for turmeric is expected to continue to grow in the future, as the ingredient has become popular amongst European consumers. Turmeric is used in nutraceuticals that boost overall immunity. According to industry sources, the demand for natural ingredients with immune-boosting properties has increased during the COVID19 pandemic. Industry experts expect this trend to continue over the forecast period.

Tips:

  • Discuss with your buyer whether they require food- or pharmaceutical-grade turmeric.
  • Do not make medicinal claims if you are targeting buyers in the food supplements industry.
  • Make sure you can meet the high regulatory and buyer requirements with regard to herbal medicinal products. For more information, see the CBI report on buyer requirements for exporting to the European market.
  • Do market research on current suppliers of turmeric. Make sure your prices are competitive and you offer high-quality and professional services. You can check various online portals, such as Europages or Indiamart.
  • See CBI studies on Exporting turmeric to Europe as they provide further information about entering the European market and on the market potential.

Baobab

The global baobab ingredient market was valued at over US$3.5 billion in 2017. According to the African Baobab Alliance, exports of baobab increased from 50 tonnes in 2013 to about 450 tonnes in 2017. Baobab is known for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, as it is rich in fibre, minerals and vitamins. Health benefits associated with baobab include improved digestion and immune system function, as well as prevention of anaemia and asthma. Baobab is used in the food industry and in nutraceuticals.

Baobab ingredients are derived from the baobab tree that is native to Africa. The European market for baobab ingredients is expected to increase by about 4% over the coming years. The main markets are Germany, France and the UK.

Some of the key obstacles to the baobab ingredient market growth are low consumer awareness and a lack of scientific evidence for the purported health benefits of baobab consumption. This makes it harder for suppliers to approach European buyers as they would rather deal in ingredients with which consumers are already familiar.

Some say the white colour of baobab is the reason why it has failed to achieve widespread popularity among consumers. Consumers seem less likely to associate this colour with other more colourful kinds of fruit and the health benefits they have to offer.

The quality of baobab is also a major challenge. There are different varieties in the market, making it difficult for baobab suppliers to set a price level. Furthermore, European buyers can easily lose confidence in a particular supplier if the fruit appears to be of poor quality. Demand for baobab ingredients is dampened by these factors, which also tend to drive prices down. It is important that robust quality standards are implemented in order to raise demand for baobab in Europe. Since baobab is not a plantation crop, suppliers rely on existing trees for their harvest. Climate change and subsequent changes in rainfall pose another threat to the baobab supply from Africa.

Despite all of these challenges, the demand for baobab in Europe is expected to increase in the future. The African Baobab Alliance forecasts exports to reach 5 thousand tonnes by 2025.

Tips:

  • Refer to the digestive health and immune-boosting properties of baobab in your product documentation. For example, British company Aduna sells baobab-based health products. The company has entered various sourcing partnerships with baobab producers in Ghana. Aduna markets baobab as a superfood and is part of a social media campaign called #makebaobabfamous.
  • Obtain organic certification for your baobab and look for buyers that specialise in organic products. Having organic certification lends credibility to your ingredients and makes them more  competitive. You can also charge premium for your ingredients.
  • If your baobab is not certified, promote the sustainable and ethical aspects of your production process. Buyers might ask you to substantiate your claims with certification or documentation on your sourcing practices or corporate social responsibility (CSR) practices.
  • For more information on baobab production see The Baobab Network and The African Baobab Alliance.
  • Read the CBI report on tips for exporting baobab to Europe and to learn more about what makes baobab such an attractive ingredient for European buyers.
  • Do not make medicinal claims if you are targeting buyers in the food supplements industry.

Aloe vera

The global aloe vera extract market was worth USD 1.6 billion in 2018. It is forecast to grow at a CAGR of 7.6 percent between 2019 and 2025, thanks to rising consumer awareness of the health benefits of aloe vera, which has been used in the treatment of, among other things, diabetes and skin diseases, , as well as the growing demand among makers of natural and organic cosmetics.

Figure 4: Imports of vegetable saps and extracts with an HS Code 130219 to Europe

Imports of vegetable saps and extracts with an HS Code 130219 to Europe

Source: Eurostat

Figure 4 shows imports of vegetable saps and extracts with an HS Code 130219 to Europe. Aloe vera is traded under this HS Code, but it contains other ingredients as well. The data shows that imports increased between 2015 and 2019 in terms of both value and volume. 

In Europe, aloe vera is cultivated in the Mediterranean region. However, the European market is dependent on imports from non-EU countries to meet its high demand. Aloe vera is cultivated in India, Pakistan and China, as well as Egypt, South Africa, Kenya, USA, Mexico and Brazil.

Quality issues and fraud are major problems in the aloe vera market. Suppliers and producers of aloe vera adulterate their products because of price pressure and to reduce costs.

Aloe vera is used in nutraceuticals that improve digestive health and boost immunity. The demand for such products is increasing because of growing health consciousness among European consumers. This trend is expected to continue in the future. According to industry sources, the current COVID19 pandemic has increased demand for aloe vera as it is often used in hand sanitisers.

Tips:

  • Read the CBI report on tips for exporting aloe vera to Europe. You can learn more about what makes aloe vera such an attractive ingredient for European buyers.
  • Keep a close eye on information about increases in production and harvests of aloe vera. This can help you anticipate supply developments and integrate that into your strategy of pricing and investments in your supply chain. Ask your buyers for this information.
  • If you supply other aloe species, you should document and communicate how sustainable your products are. You will need to present a solid scenario to buyers if you want to compete with aloe vera producers.
  • Describe the product identity and provide appropriate certificates of analysis to support your product specifications. This will help build trust with potential buyers.
  • If you add any substances to your product (e.g. preservatives), you should inform your buyer by clearly indicating this in your product documentation.

Moringa

The global market for moringa products was valued at USD 5.5 million in 2018, and is forecast to grow at an annual rate of 8.9% between 2018 and 2025 to USD 10 billion. Demand for moringa is growing in the nutraceutical, food and cosmetics sectors. Europe has the largest market for moringa products, partly because of their use in food supplements in Western Europe. Driven by Germany, France, UK and Italy the value of the European moringa ingredient market may exceed USD 2 billion by 2025.  

Moringa contains vitamin A, vitamin B1, folate, calcium, potassium, iron and zinc. It is also used in weight loss supplements. Moringa is only produced in India and some parts of Africa. Roughly 80% of global supply comes from India. Other producers of moringa are Kenya, Ghana, Nigeria, Niger, Rwanda, South Africa and Mozambique, as well as Cambodia and Haiti.

Figure 5: Imports of other dried vegetables and mixtures of vegetables with an HS Code 07129090 to Europe

Imports of other dried vegetables and mixtures of vegetables with an HS Code 07129090 to Europe

Source: Eurostat

Figure 6: Imports of other medicinal plants and parts of plants with an HS Code 12119086 to Europe

Imports of other medicinal plants and parts of plants with an HS Code 12119086 to Europe

Figure 5 shows the import volume and value of other dried vegetables and mixtures of vegetables with HS Code 07129090, while Figure 6 shows imports of other medicinal plants and parts of plants with HS Code 12119086 between 2015 and 2019. Moringa by-products are traded under these HS codes, but they also include other ingredients.

Moringa cultivation is a profitable business for growers in developing countries, especially since the European supply of moringa is heavily dependent on imports from outside the EU. The main obstacle for new suppliers is the price. Indian suppliers can offer moringa at competitive prices because of large-scale production. The relatively low consumer awareness of moringa is also limiting market growth.

According to industry experts, one of the main constraints on growth in the moringa market in Europe is the lack of awareness among consumers. However, it is expected that this will gradually improve in the near future.

The demand for organic moringa is also increasing because of growing consumer demand for organic products and products which offer  health benefits. The demand for moringa is expected to continue to increase in the future.

Tips:

  • Check with your buyers if they require certification of food safety management and find out which food safety management systems they prefer.
  • Do not make medicinal claims if you are targeting buyers in the food supplements industry.
  • See the CBI study on exporting moringa to Europe. You can learn more about what makes moringa such an appealing ingredient for European buyers. Educate potential buyers on the uses of moringa to help them promote moringa effectively and expand interest in it in the European market. Show them the traditional uses of moringa powder in your country. Provide samples of moringa-based products to show in what type of final products moringa is used.
  • If you add any substances to your product, you must inform your buyer by clearly indicating it in your product documentation.

Important producers of nutraceuticals in Europe include Tropextrakt GmbH (DE), Nu U Nutrition (GB), Vitarbo AG (CH) and Superfoods B.V. (NL).

Seaweeds and algae products

The global algae products market had an estimated value of USD 9.9 billion in 2018. The global market is expected to grow steadily (CAGR 7%) to USD 14.99 billion by 2024, because of growing demand in the supplements sector, followed by the pharmaceutical sector. Dried spirulina is the largest market segment with about 12 thousand tonnes being produced every year.

The most popular micro algae used in nutraceuticals are spirulina and chlorella. Astaxanthin, beta carotene and omega-3 fatty acid are among the substances derived from algae. In pharmaceuticals, algae are used as antimicrobials, antivirals and antifungals, antioxidants and antitumor and anti-diabetic agents.

According to Allied Market Research, the global spirulina market was worth USD 346 million in 2018. The market is expected to grow at 10% CAGR between 2019 and 2026 to USD 779 million. Europe has the second largest market for spirulina.

Spirulina has a wide range of applications and health benefits. Demand for spirulina is driven by the growing consumer awareness of its benefits and the demand for healthier products.

Approximately 70% of the world’s spirulina is produced in China, India and Taiwan. Other producers include the United States, Thailand, Pakistan, South Africa and Myanmar. Spirulina production is also promoted by various governmental initiatives in India and South Africa. Producers in developing countries have ample opportunities to supply spirulina to Europe.

Chlorella is the second most important micro algae. According to the Pharma Innovation Journal,  approximately 5 thousand tonnes of chlorella are produced per year. According to Zion Market Research, the global chlorella market was worth USD 49 million in 2017, and that figure is forecast to reach USD 68 million by 2024. Chlorella is in demand because of its health properties, such as the ability to remove heavy metals and ash content from the human body.

Figure 7: Imports of edible seaweeds to Europe

Imports of edible seaweeds to Europe

Source: Eurostat

Companies that sell seaweed products include Algomed (Germany), Roquette (France), and Necton (Portugal).

The demanding production methods associated with chlorella place major constraints on the supply. This is because these processes require carbonated water and artificial light, which are relatively expensive and lead to higher prices, so further research is required to improve production methods. Low consumer awareness of the health benefits of chlorella also limits market growth.

The popularity of edible algae, such as spirulina and chlorella is increasing in Europe. The versatility of edible seaweed, and the high content of vitamins and minerals and their antiviral, antimicrobial and antifungal properties, as well as their high protein content makes them an attractive ingredient for health products.

The ageing population in Europe, as well as increasing popularity of vegan and vegetarian lifestyles is driving demand for edible seaweed, such as spirulina and chlorella in Europe.

Tips:

  • Target Western European importers. France and Italy are the largest importers of seaweed from developing countries and the markets for seaweed in the United Kingdom and Germany are growing.
  • If your seaweed is not certified, promote the sustainable and ethical aspects of your production process. Buyers might ask you to substantiate your claims with certification or documentation on your sourcing practices and sustainability practices. For example, the Aquaculture Stewardship Council has a sustainable seaweed standard.
  • See the CBI report on exporting seaweed for health products to Europe.

Plant proteins

Consumer demand for plant proteins is driven by a growing shift towards healthier consumer lifestyles. Plant proteins have lower environmental impacts than animal-based proteins; some are by- products of other production methods. The popularity of vegan lifestyles is also having a positive impact on plant protein sales.

There are different types of plant proteins in the European market. The most common ones are soya, pea, rice, hemp and almond. Plant-based proteins are usually used in processed food products, as well as in powders that can be used as supplements.

Important plant-based protein suppliers in Europe include ADM Specialty Ingredients (Europe) B.V (the Netherlands), Roquette S.A. (France), BENEO GmbH (Germany) and Ingredion (Germany).

The demand for plant-based proteins, such those found in rice, presents an opportunity for suppliers in developing countries. The advantage of rice protein is that brown rice does not contain common allergens, such as casein and soya protein isolates.

The European rice protein market was worth an estimated USD 18.5 million in 2018. The demand for rice protein is expected to increase in the future, due to concerns about the environment and the increasing popularity of vegan and vegetarian lifestyles.

The most promising country markets for rice protein are Germany, the UK and France. In 2019, the UK overtook Germany in terms of the number of vegan product launches. The UK also has a highly developed rice processing industry.

The demand for chia protein, which is also plant based, presents another opportunity for exporters in developing countries. Chia is traditionally cultivated in Latin American countries, such as Mexico, Paraguay, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Nicaragua and Argentina. However, there is some commercial production in a few African countries, such as Kenya and Uganda.

Chia seed powder is produced by grinding chia seeds. Germany, the Netherlands and Spain are among the leading importers of chia seeds. The popularity of chia seeds is growing because of their nutritional properties. However, the EU Novel Food Regulation is likely to slow demand in Europe as it places restrictions on the use of chia seeds in industrial applications.

The presence of cheaper alternatives, such as soya and whey protein, is another challenge for these plant-based proteins. However, soya protein tends to be highly processed and much of the supply is from genetically modified crops. Whey protein is also heavily processed and does not fit into the trend of vegan and more environmentally-friendly diets.

Tips:

  • For more information on the trend of veganism, see websites and associations such The Vegan Society.
  • Stay up to date on trends and developments in plant-based proteins. Visit the website of the European Vegetable Protein Association EUVEPRO. Search for credible information and sources on the benefits of plant-based proteins. Use these references in your product documentation and marketing materials.
  • If your protein is not certified, promote the sustainable and ethical aspects of your production process.
  • Substantiate your claims with certification or documentation of your sourcing and sustainability practices.
  • Read CBI studies on Exporting Chia seeds to Europe, which provide further information about entering the European market and the European market potential.

This study has been carried out on behalf of CBI by Ecovia Intelligence.

Please review our market information disclaimer.

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