As November kicks off World Vegan Month, the latest research from Mintel reveals a surge in vegan claims in the UK meat-free foods market. According to Mintel research, the share of meat-free new products carrying a vegan/no animal ingredients claim nearly doubled between 2014-17.
This growing profile of vegan foods is reflected by the fact that in 2017, more than half (52%) of new product launches in the meat-free foods market were vegan/contained no animal ingredients, up from 28% in 2014, according to Mintel Global New Products Database (GNPD). The significant growth in the availability of vegan products in the meat-free foods market will appeal to the 26% of consumers who prefer meat-free products to be plant-based rather than containing eggs or dairy. Mintel’s latest research also highlights that the popularity of meat-free foods extends well beyond the small pool of non-meat eaters that describe themselves as vegan.
Keen to get a slice of the meat-free action, as many as 56% of UK adults have eaten vegetarian/meat-free foods in the six months to July 2018, a significant increase from the 50% who had eaten these foods in the six months to March 2017. Estimated to reach £740 million in 2018, sales of meat-free foods (including a growing range of vegan products) have shot up 22% between 2013-18. Growth is set to continue as value sales of the meat-free market are forecast to increase by a further 44% by 2023 to reach £1.1 billion.
In 2017, more than half (52%) of new product launches in the meat-free foods market were vegan/contained no animal ingredients, up from 28% in 2014.
Alyson Parkes, research analyst at Mintel, says: “Although the meat-free market is not vegan by definition, there has been a significant increase in the number of new products that carry a vegan claim. The buzz surrounding ‘Veganuary’ gained momentum in January 2018, with a raft of vegan products launching to capitalize on the month-long meat-free movement. Vegan claims in the market span own-label products, as well as branded ones, signalling that supermarkets are also keen to capitalise on this interest. The appeal of meat-free products also extends far beyond the still very limited pool of vegan consumers. The rising profile of meat-free products and plant-based diets has been helped by activity in the foodservice arena and a significant advertising push in 2018, which has increased the visibility and awareness of these products among consumers, as well as injected excitement into the category.”
Brits trim back meat consumption
While 90% of Brits are red meat/poultry eaters, Mintel research highlights consumer interest in limiting/reducing meat consumption remains strong, as 34% of meat eaters reduced their meat consumption in 2018. Younger Brits aged 25-34 are the most likely (40%) to have reduced meat consumption in the last year. A further 21% of meat eaters say that they would be interested in limiting/reducing their meat consumption in the future, highlighting the growing appeal of meat reduction and the opportunity for meat-free foods.
The top three perceived benefits of eating less meat are improving health (32%), saving money (31%), and being better for the environment (25%). Despite improving health being seen as the top benefit, considerably fewer consumers associate eating less meat with helping to manage weight (25%) or reducing the risk of disease (22%).
“The UK’s overarching health trend has underpinned meat reduction behaviors, with consumers increasingly looking for better-for-you food and drink products. However, the benefits associated with eating less meat extend far beyond health, also encompassing animal ethics and the environment. The multi-dimensional appeal of the meat-free trend bodes well for its longevity,” adds Parkes.
Wanted: meat-free foods that look like meat
Tasting like meat is the top enticing factor for 26% of non/infrequent eaters of vegetarian/meat-free foods. There is also some interest in products that replicate meat in other ways, with 15% of this consumers group agreeing that meat-free burgers which ‘bleed’ are appealing; rising to 25% of 16- to 34-year-olds.
Despite this, Mintel research confirms that there is some confusion and concern surrounding meat-free foods, with 44% of Brits unclear about what ingredients are used in these foods. With two-fifths (41%) of consumers agreeing that meat-free foods with a shorter list of ingredients are more appealing than those with longer ingredient lists, and a further 31% believing that meat-free foods are too processed to be healthier than meat, transparency is key in order to reassure consumers and build trust.
“Several companies have recently launched revolutionary plant-based burgers that mimic the same ‘bleeding’ quality as animal-based meat burgers when cooked. This meat-replicating feature certainly makes the concept of meat-free foods more newsworthy and intriguing for consumers which, combined with health credentials, ethical claims, and environmental considerations, creates a compelling proposition. This visual aspect also makes these products highly ‘Instagrammable’, and can help catch the eye of experimental foodies, as well as a wider audience,” concludes Parkes.