Polish consumers are increasingly willing to experiment with plants and plant-based substitutes. Although the use of overt vegetarian and vegan on-pack positionings has so far been infrequent in Poland, an uptick in launches carrying these claims seems to be very likely. One segment that could profit from this trend is vegan cheese.

Plant-based diets are growing in popularity

Consumers in Poland demonstrate a growing preference for naturalness, simplicity and flexibility. This interest has sparked the use of plant ingredients and the popularity of plant-based eating in general, as discussed in Mintel’s 2017 Global Food & Drink Trend ‘Power to the Plants’. Fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, grains and botanicals are taking center stage in daily meal plans due to the growing desire for healthier and ‘cleaner’ lifestyles.

Mintel research shows that as of the fourth quarter of 2016, a third of Polish respondents claimed to be actively reducing their consumption of, or avoiding, red meat. With health and taste concerns driving purchase decisions of Polish consumers across food and drink, non-dairy alternatives are seen as better-for-you options by a sizeable cohort of consumers. Nonetheless, more pronounced efforts are needed to further promote the benefits of following a full-time or a part-time plant-based diet in Poland as just a small percentage of adult consumers identify themselves as vegetarian or vegan.

Vegetarian and vegan claims still rare in the Polish cheese market

Cheese is well established as part of a vegetarian diet, more precisely a lacto-vegetarian or ovo-lacto vegetarian diet. Nonetheless, it is not widely known that most cheeses which are made in the traditional way use animal-based rennet. Therefore, there is increased focus on embracing vegetarian claims in conjunction with clear communication about the non-animal rennet origin

In the two year period between February 2015 and January 2017, very few cheese launches in Poland carried vegetarian claims and even fewer claimed to be vegan. In the neighbouring German market, this trend is already significantly more pronounced, which could suggests development potential within the Polish market, given that Poles, particularly Millennials, are quick to adopt Western eating habits.

Looking specifically at vegan cheese in Poland, this niche is dominated by domestic Polsoja with the Vege Plastry range and imported brands, including Greek Violife (Viotros), Italian Verys (Frescolat) and Cypriot Green Vie (Vpelmarso Greenvie Foods). These brands are formulated with different plant sources – Vege Plastry is based on soy protein, Verys on germinated rice, whilst both Violife and Green Vie use coconut oil.

In early 2016, the Polish vegan cheese segment saw a new entry – the domestic Serotonina brand which focuses on premium-quality artisan cheeses. The name Serotonina is a play of words, combining ‘ser’ which in Polish means ‘cheese’ and ‘serotonina’ which means ‘serotonin’. These new vegan cheeses are targeted not only at vegans and vegetarians but also at flexitarians and lactose-intolerant consumers.

The available range comprises a number of varieties which are designed to resemble original dairy-based creations, as well as featuring witty names and unique flavour profiles. For instance, Czader Almondo with roasted almonds, Karbon with black sesame seeds and nigella, Gorgon with miso and spirulina, Helveto with sriracha, Tiramiser with amaretto, vanilla and coffee, and Zimovit with muscovado sugar and rosemary. Serotonina cheeses are made only with natural ingredients, with a base of soy, cashew nuts and coconut oil.

Honorata Jarocka joined Mintel in 2013 and is a Senior Food and Drink Analyst for Poland. Her area of particular interest is health and wellness trends as well as innovative product concepts within the Polish food and drink industry and also in the wider Eastern European region. With over 10 years of experience in market research, Honorata has worked on a number of projects, including food and drink, retailing, beauty and personal care, home care, tissue and hygiene, consumer health, tobacco as well as pet food and pet care products. Beyond her market research expertise, Honorata has been responsible for marketing and promotional activities whilst working for some of the most prominent companies in Poland. These include LPP, Oceanic and the advertising agency Tequila\Polska (previously Tequila\BTL Group). Honorata is a member of PTBRiO (Polskie Towarzystwo Badaczy Rynku i Opinii – Polish Society for Opinion and Marketing Research) and a regular speaker at industry events.

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