As concerns over the health and environmental impacts of eating meat have grown in Germany, so too has interest in alternative protein sources, including seaweeds such as algae, chlorella and spirulina. Indeed, Mintel research finds three out of five German consumers either have tried or would like to try algae as a protein source.

Even though algae ingredients featured in less than 1% of total food and drink product launches in Europe between 2014 and 2015, according to Mintel’s Global New Products Database (GNPD), products based on algae are starting to make their way into the marketplace. And public attention around algae’s numerous health benefits is growing.

Algae has been found effective in fighting a number of major lifestyle diseases from obesity and diabetes to depression, while featuring a dense balance of phytonutrients, vitamins and minerals, as well as a high concentration of protein. This will particularly appeal to the younger generations in Germany, with 42% of 16-24 year olds saying they are incorporating more protein into their diets compared to a year ago. Besides their nutritional benefits, algae is also considered a sustainable plant which is found in almost every ecosystem in the world.

But algae does not only fit in with consumers’ continued quest for alternative protein sources; its natural green colour also means that it can help support health claims when featured alongside other green ingredients such as kale, green tea, or wheat grass. This could do particularly well with German consumers as Mintel research reveals over half of Germans aged 16-24 say they are prepared to change their lifestyle to be healthier.

This might be one of the reasons why algae-based launches have found a natural home in the juices and smoothies category. Recent launches in Germany include Rabenhorst’s Wheatgrass Drink with Spirulina Micro Algae and Green Tea Extract, Alnavit’s “Green Hero” with Spirulina and Matcha and True Fruits’ Green Smoothie with Rocket, Mint & Chlorella.

Wheatgrass Drink with Spirulina Micro Algae and Green Tea Extract Green Smoothie with Rocket, Mint & ChlorellaChlorella Algae DrinkGreen Hero Organic Smoothie

In the carbonated soft drinks sector, however, algae-based launches are still extremely rare. One innovative exception comes from Austrian start-up Evasis Edibles who in 2015 launched “Helga”, a carbonated soft drink based on freshwater microalgae chlorella. Helga, whose name is derived from “healthy algae”, is described as a low-calorie alternative to regular sugar-laden carbonates. Drinks low in sugar are indeed in demand in the German market where over half of consumers say they are reducing, or avoiding, consumption of sugary foods.

Moreover, Evasis Edibles’ Helga puts a special emphasis on its high content of vitamin B12, high-value protein and omega-3 fatty acids – nutrients said to be commonly lacked by vegans and vegetarians. Algae’s high chlorophyll content, meanwhile, is said to support detoxification and general wellbeing.

Overall, the carbonated soft drink market has been gearing up for more natural formulations and adult flavours, with the arrival of algae marking an interesting milestone in the evolution process. As consumer interest in naturally functional products is now hitting mainstream, algae’s superfood character calls for more overt and focused promotion in food and drink product innovation.

Julia Buech is a Food and Drink Analyst at Mintel. She specialises in delivering insights on issues affecting the German food and drink market, providing analysis across a range of food and drink categories. Previously Trend & Innovation Consultant at Mintel, Julia was responsible for providing tailored product innovation analysis and client support primarily to Mintel’s German speaking clients.

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