Britain’s meat-free sales grow 40% in five years

Credit: Daniel Jedzura

Sales of meat-free foods in the UK have increased 40% to an estimated £816 million from 2014 to 2019, research from Mintel shows.

Britain’s meat-free market continues to flourish with the research revealing that the number of Brits who have eaten meat-free foods has increases from 50% in 2017 to 56% in 2019.

Sales have increased an impressive amount over a five-year period and will continue to grow in the years to come. Indeed, sales are expected to be in excess of £1.1 billion by 2024.

According to the research, 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.

Women are more likely than men to have limited/reduced the amount of meat in their diets (42% compared to 36%); this rises to 45% among all under-45s.

But while the meat-free market is thriving, 38% of non-users would prefer to substitute meat with other ingredients such as cheese or pulses, rather than buy meat substitutes.

And while the flexitarian diet – comprised of predominantly plant-based food, with some meat and fish –  is all the buzz, meat remains a cornerstone of Britons’ diets, with 88% of Brits eating red meat/poultry.

This comes as research from Mintel Global New Products Database (GNPD) reveals that almost a quarter (23%) of all new UK food product launches in 2019 were labelled as vegan, compared to 17% in 2018.

However, there has been no significant increase in the proportion of consumers who say they are vegan since 2018, according to Mintel research, 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. 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,” said , Mintel Global Food & Drink Analyst, Kate Vlietstrasaid.

“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.

“Meat-free products are generally aimed towards young professionals, who tend to be receptive to trying new foods, but we are also likely to see these products targeted at both children and over-55s in the future.

“As food education within schools improves, it seems that the meat-free food market is missing a trick by not targeting children and families. Meanwhile, over-55s are likely to be attracted to functional health claims and clean labels.”