Recent overproduction and price drops have made the chickpea trade less appealing. However, the consumption in Europe is increasing significantly. The growth of modern chickpea consumption in addition to the traditional demand, will drive future growth in Europe.
Market growth: Larger import against lower value
The European chickpea consumption is increasing fast. The import of chickpeas has seen strong growth, but so has the production. Suppliers can profit of a larger demand, but with a careful focus on production and price development.
Between 2015 to 2019, imports grew with 55%, which is exceptional for a pulse crop. At the same time, chickpea production in Europe is increasing; from 58 thousand tonnes in 2014 to 216 thousand tonnes in 2018. Spain, Bulgaria and Italy are responsible for over 90% of the production in the European Union. Based on the growing imports and production, consumption has likely doubled over five years, and is expected to further increase.
However, the market for chickpeas is volatile. Many producers have seen an opportunity in the global demand for chickpeas. This has resulted in higher production volumes in recent years. Meanwhile, the production in India, world’s largest chickpea producer, has been fluctuating as well, causing prices to go up in 2016 and crash down again in 2018 due to overproduction. Carry-over stocks in 2020 are still large and the market may remain volatile up to 2021.
As a supplier, it is important to take these fluctuations into account, plan ahead and stay up to date on agricultural forecasts. According to trade professionals, the long-term demand will remain strong.
Increasing modern consumption
The chickpea market in Europe can be divided into traditional consumption and a growing modern family demand. The market is diversifying and as a supplier, you need a wide scope to prepare for Europe’s full potential.
Chickpea consumption is primarily driven by the traditional consumer that uses chickpeas in cooking or typical ethnic products such as hummus and falafel. Although this consumption is mainly related to the Mediterranean and ethnic populations throughout Europe, modern consumption has had the most significant impact on the growth. Indications of a growing modern consumption of chickpeas are the increasing number of consumers who avoid meat and the number of new product launches with pea protein.
In most of the larger European countries between 7 and 10% of the population follows a vegan or vegetarian diet (see table 1 below). The number of ‘flexitarians’ (people that occasionally look for meat substitutes) is believed to be many times bigger. For example, in the United Kingdom, 92% of plant-based meals consumed in 2018 were eaten by non-vegans according to data from market insight company Kantar.
Products that are high in protein are the best substitutes for meat. The number of product launches in Europe with pea protein (not necessarily from chickpeas) has increased over the past decade, from 6 in 2008 to 139 in 2018 (see figure 2). Chickpeas are used in healthy snacks, ready-made meals, meat replacers, pastas, bakery products and even vegan ice cream.
When considering export to Europe, your focus must not only be on the traditional importers but also on buyers of special ingredients.