Are Germans ditching olive oil for nut and seed varieties?

December 17, 2015
4 min read

The desire to eat less processed foods coupled with concerns over obesity and weight management is helping to drive interest in diets that promote a “back to basics” style of eating, as outlined in the 2016 Mintel global food and drink trend ‘Diet by DNA’.

As a result, low carb and high fat (LCHF) diets such as paleo or ketogenic diets have grown in popularity over recent years. A key feature of these plans is not just that they cut out carbs, but many also promote higher fat intake — a method that forces the body to use fat as its main source of energy. These diets often differentiate between “good” and “bad”  types of fats and oils, encouraging consumers to explore new varieties.

Until now, use of specialist nut and seed oils has been considerably lower than traditional oils such as sunflower or olive. Across Europe, penetration is highest in Germany, where nearly one in five (18%) consumers claimed to have bought both nut and seed oils in the previous six months when surveyed in 2014. However, this numbers fell to only 7% of respondents in Poland and to an even lower 4% in Spain.

Despite low penetration rates, nut and seed oils have high growth potential. In Spain and Italy the majority of consumers believe that premium oils are better for you, while more than half of all consumers in Germany, Spain or Poland agree that the type of oil used makes a difference to the final dish.

Around a third of Germans say nut and seed oils are healthy and tasty

Perhaps the greatest barrier for wider uptake of nut and seed oils is that consumers still see olive oil as the gold standard in terms of taste and perceived health benefits. Such is the case in Germany despite its higher-than-average penetration of nut and seed oils. While around a third of consumers agreed specialist oils are healthy and taste great, this rises to more than 50% for olive oil.

However, due to poor olive oil harvests,  prices for olive oil increased sharply in 2015. As these cost increases filter through to retail pricing, it is likely that a significant number of consumers will seek alternative oil sources.

Cold use is key to success

With many “back to basic” style diets recommending nut and seed oils for use with cold food, there is a big market opportunity for healthier oils in a variety of pre-made foods. Of these, perhaps the most obvious opportunity is in the salad dressings segment.

Dressings can offer an opportunity for specialist nut and seed oil producers to reach a wide audience and increase usage. For instance, in France 43% of dressing buyers use dressing at least once a week; similarly, a third of German and Spanish consumers use dressings at home on a weekly basis.

Natural and healthy claims feature prominently on many European dressing launches. Echoing the desire for “back to basic” style diets, in the 12 months ending October 2015, more than one third of new introductions held the label “natural”, while 34% highlighted “free from” claims, including “gluten free”.

However, specialist nut and seed oils rarely feature as an ingredient in new dressing launches across Europe. Once rapeseed and sunflower seed oils are excluded, less than 5% of new European dressing launches featured nut or seed oil in the same 12 month period. This compares to 16% of launches featuring olive oil content.

As with cooking oils, the recent price increases may mean that nut and seed oils could offer suppliers better margin opportunities than olive oil. In addition, by tapping into the trend for low carb diet plans, producers can charge a premium price for nut and seed oil-based dressings.

Consumer hunger for ‘Back to Basics’-style products is discussed in our Global Food and Drink Trends 2016, available for free download here. This pdf contains overviews of each trend and heat maps to indicate where trends are established, mainstreaming or emerging.

David Turner is Global Food and Drink Analyst at Mintel and joined the company in 2012. During a 20-year career in the food and drink industry, he has gained commercial experience in CPG and foodservice markets, leading the brand and private label marketing activity for major dairy, foodservice and spirits brands.

David Turner
David Turner

David is Vice President of Content, APAC, at Mintel. He provides insights on the latest innovation, market shifts and consumer trends across Asia Pacific and globally.

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