In 2017, more than half (52%) of new product launches in the meat-free sector were vegan or contained no animal ingredients, up from 28% in 2014.
The rise in the number of vegan launches was reflected in the growth of UK adults who have eaten vegetarian or meat-free foods in the six months to July 2018 – 56%, up from 50% for the same period in 2017.
Mintel research analyst Alyson Parkes said that, while the meat-free market was not vegan by definition, there had been a significant increase in the number of new products carrying a vegan claim.
“The buzz surrounding ‘Veganuary’ gained momentum in January 2018, with a raft of vegan products launching to capitalise on the month-long meat-free movement,” explained Parkes.
‘Capitalise on this interest’
“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.”
Sales of meat-free foods were estimated to reach £740m this year, up 22% from 2013. Growth is set to continue, as value sales of the meat-free market were forecast to increase by a further 44% by 2023 to reach £1.1bn.
Mintel’s research also found that, while 90% of Brits were still red meat and poultry eaters, 34% have reduced their meat consumption in 2018. This number grew to 40% among the 25- to 34-year-old age bracket.
A further 21% of meat eaters said they would be interested in limiting or reducing their meat consumption in the future, which highlighted the growing appeal of meat reduction. Top reasons to reduce meat consumption were the perceived health benefits and to save money (see box below).
“The UK’s overarching health trend has underpinned meat reduction behaviours, with consumers increasingly looking for better-for-you food and drink products,” added Parkes.
“However, the benefits associated with eating less meat extend far beyond health, also encompassing animal ethics and the environment.”
According to the research, the easiest way for food manufacturers to capture the vegan market was to create products that tasted like meat, the top enticing factor for infrequent eaters of vegetarian and meat-free foods.
There was also interest in products that replicate meat in other ways. Up to 15% of respondents said meat-free burgers that ‘bled’ were appealing, rising to 25% of 16- to 34-year-olds.
Meanwhile, last month, Sainsbury’s launched more meat-free products, this time targeting flexitarians with vegan mince and burger patties, made from plants by start-up firm The Meatless Farm Co.