The free market


In the last two years there has been a step change in attitudes towards meat-eating.

Over a quarter of meat-eating Brits have reduced or limited their meat consumption in the last six months and since 2016 sales of meat-free products have jumped 4% to £559 million and are projected to grow by almost a fifth by 2021.

It's not only vegans and vegetarians that contribute to this growth. There are now 22 million "flexitarians" (those who switch between vegan/vegetarian and meat meals) within the UK, and an increasing number of pescatarians.

We believe there are five key factors which have influenced this growth:

Perceived Dangers of Eating Too Much Meat
Half of Britons who have reduced their meat consumption believe that eating too much meat is bad for their health. With the increased media coverage on the cancer-causing effects of meat-heavy diets there is no doubt that a major factor for the increased demand in meat-free foods are the perceived health benefits.

Meat-Free Campaigns
Campaigns such as "Meat Free Mondays" or "Veganuary" (where people try out a vegan diet for January) have gained popularity. In 2014, participants of Veganuary numbered a mere 3,300 which increased to 168,000 participants this year (and that was only those who enrolled online).

Influence of Social Media
Social media, particularly Instagram, is playing an important role in the promotion of meat-free diets. Instagram is the go-to place for food inspiration and #vegan has been used in over 57 million posts. Similarly, vloggers, such as Deliciously Ella and theHemsley sisters, are using social media to make an impact: 16% of Brits cite vloggers as their influence to reduce the amount of meat they eat. 

Supermarkets Go Vegan
Supermarkets are expanding their meat-free ranges. In early June Waitrose increased their vegan/vegetarian range by 60% and include up-and-coming brands such as The Happy Pear and The Vegetarian Butcher; Tesco launched the Vivera's plant-based steak (the first in the UK) and Sainsbury's have introduced meat and dairy-free burgers by Naturli Foods which, against the norm, are placed alongside meat products to encourage more shoppers to give them a try.

Role models
Celebrities are backing the "flexitarian" diet. Beyoncé developed the "22 Days Nutrition" meal planner, alongside her husband Jay Z, which challenges her 22 million Instagram followers to try a more plant-based lifestyle. Athletes are also cutting out animal products from their diets. Tennis player Novak Djokovic has suggested that turning vegan was one of the main reasons behind his rise to world No1. Similarly, the footballer Chris Smalling is convinced a vegan diet has helped him avoid stress-related muscle injuries. Lionel Messi and Sergio Aguero both now follow a vegan diet.

Reeling in the increase in demand for meat-free products is Quorn, who has seen its global sales increase by 16% to £205 million in 2017, the largest annual increase since the meat substitute brand was launched. However, it's the smaller brands that are the ones to watch. Freaks of Nature makes vegan-friendly desserts, and in just 18 months went from an idea to being listed in Tesco, Waitrose and Morrisons. Moving Mountains (seen above), which was launched in the UK earlier this year, is the UK's first meatless "bleeding" burger. It has been dubbed as the UK's answer toBeyond Burger, a meat-free burger made by the US start-up Beyond Meat which has been outselling meat burgers in mainstream stores in California.

With supermarkets citing that customers are asking for more vegan and/or vegetarian options in store, there is clearly an opportunity for new meat-free products.

Roisin Monaghan