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Fad or future? Apple cider vinegar brand Osu secures Sainsbury’s listing as retailers’ wellness appetite soars

·3-min read

Japanese apple cider vinegar brand Osu is to be rolled out in Sainsbury's stores around Britain in the latest sign UK retailers' appetites for wellness products continues to grow.

Long used in salad dressings, apple cider vinegar has been hailed in recent years as a useful metabolism-booster for those struggling to shed unwanted weight.

Independent studies have suggested the product may increase the amount of fat the body burns to release energy, and people in Japan have incorporated a dose into their daily routine for centuries.

Apple cider vinegar is fermented and contains high levels of acetic acid - a compound key in the metabolising of fats and carbohydrates.

Like fellow wellness drink kombucha, Osu's apple cider vinegar is fermented and vegan. Its products were developed for the UK market, and its suggestions for use include inside a turmeric latte - the wellness fan's caffeine-free friend - in sour mocktails (the alcohol-free health trend is also booming, particularly among under-25s) and in breakfast dishes.

Simply leaving a bottle beside your coffee machine to encourage taking a shot in the morning is also recommended.

The listing comes amid a pandemic-era boom in the wellness and supplements sectors, and as ever-growing numbers of health-focused products appear on British supermarket shelves.

Research from market analysts Mintel found the preventative health supplement market grew by 10% in 2020, while consumer giants are buying up health product-makers in a bid to future-proof sales. Britvic recently bought London-based cold-pressed juice and health shots marker, Plenish, for an undisclosed sum. The drinks, founded in 2012 by New York-born entrepreneur Kara Rosen, are stocked in Waitrose and M&S.

Sushi kiosks are popping up in Tesco, and coconut water and Moju immunity-boosting shots are on now on the shelves of most major supermarkets. This was not the case just three years ago.

Sainsbury's recently launched Beyond Meat burgers and products from London-based meat alternative startup, THIS ISN'T.

In the US, apple cider vinegar has grown from a category worth £90 million to £275 million inside six years.

Osu is owned by two-century-old Japanese food firm Mizkan, which bought Branston Pickle, along with Sarson's Vinegar and Haywards Pickled Onions, in 2013.

Mizkan's deputy COO, Bryan Carroll, told the Standard he sees the UK's mainstream retailers opting for products such as Osu as they look to differentiate from disruptive discounters Aldi and Lidl, which are both currently pursuing rapid UK expansion.

He said: "I think it's partly about delivering on what consumers want, but also in terms of their competitiveness and the way they can differentiate versus the likes of the discounters.

"They're going 'we've got much bigger stores, so we can afford to offer more choice', and are offering different consumer categories, more premium categories."

But is this wellness boom just a fad? Carroll argues the trend towards natural-based health products is here to stay.

"I think the evidence will suggest that it's not [a fad]," he said. "There is Kantar data that shows at a total level how many food and drink consumption occasions are motivated by health, and over a third of them are now motivated by health... Motivation that is continuing to drive the growth is natural, which is where plant-based trends come in.

"In the long term health trends are really here to stay."

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