Health, price and environment are driving meat-free trend

Demand for vegetarian and meat-free foods continues to rise in the UK, with 34% of consumers having limited or reduced their meat consumption this year. This rises to 40% amongst 25- to 34-year-olds, according to new research published by Mintel.

The shift towards flexitarian diets is driven by health (32%), saving money (31%) and environmental concerns (25%).

The foodservice sector has helped widen the appeal of meat-free eating beyond the limited pool of vegans by “injecting excitement” into the category, said Mintel research analyst Alyson Parkes.

Indeed, one in two chefs (51%) has added vegan options to their menus this year, up from 31% in 2017, according to research by Foodable Labs published in October. Meatless burgers that “bleed” and other vegan “junk food” have also attracted more meat-eaters to the plant-based party.

Supermarkets have been keen to cash in, with their own vegan products: 52% of new product launches in the meat-free foods market were vegan or contained no animal ingredients, up from 28% in 2014. Sales of meat-free foods (including a growing range of vegan products) increased by 22% between 2013-18, according to Mintel.

However, more transparency is needed to reassure consumers that meat alternatives are healthier. Some 44% of Brits were unclear about what ingredients are used in meat-free foods, whilst 41% said meat-free foods with a shorter list of ingredients are more appealing than those with longer ingredient lists. Almost a third (31%) felt that meat-free foods are too processed to be healthier than meat.

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