Almost a quarter (23%) of all new UK food product launches in 2019 were labelled as vegan, up from 17% in 2018, according to new figures from Mintel.
Sales of meat-free foods have grown 40% from £582 million in 2014 to an estimated £816 million in 2019. The market research firm predicts that sales are expected to be in excess of £1.1 billion by 2024.
The proportion of meat-eaters who have reduced or limited the amount of meat they consume has risen from 28% in 2017 to 39% in 2019.
While the flexitarian diet – comprised of predominantly plant-based food, with some meat and fish – has increased in popularity, meat remains a cornerstone of Britons’ diets, with 88% of consumers eating red meat and poultry.
According to Mintel, there has been no significant increase in the proportion of consumers who say they are vegan since 2018, with those following a vegan diet still only equating to around 1% of the UK population.
“The rising popularity of flexitarian diets has helped to drive demand for meat-free products,” said Kate Vlietstra, Mintel global food and drink analyst. “Many consumers perceive that plant-based foods are a healthier option, and this notion is the key driver behind the reduction in meat consumption in recent years.
“As the meat-free market becomes increasingly crowded, brands will need to find more ways to distinguish themselves from their competitors – it’s no longer enough to just be meat-free.
“Companies will need to be transparent about the healthiness of their products, and also address the quality and quantity of nutrients to win over the discerning consumer.”
Mintel research highlights strong awareness of environmental issues linked to meat production, as nearly half of British consumers (48%) see reducing consumption of animal products as a good way to lessen humans’ impact on the environment. Meanwhile, environmentally friendly packaging would prompt three quarters (75%) of meat-free users/buyers to buy one meat-free food product over another.
When asked about the benefits of eating less meat, ‘improving the environment’ is cited by a quarter (25%) of those cutting back; but the top reason given by nearly a third of those cutting back (32%) is that it ‘helps to improve health’, followed closely by ‘it’s a good way to save money’ (31%).
Vlietstra added: “TV documentaries, news coverage and celebrity influencers have all contributed to the growing concern about the impact of meat consumption on the environment. However, there is scope for meat-free brands to be more vocal about their environmental credentials.
“Creating a USP in holistic ‘green’ credentials, which must include environmentally friendly packaging, can create a compelling point of differentiation.”
© FoodBev Media Ltd 2019