According to the data, meat was bought weekly by 87% of British households in the first three weeks of January – while meat-free alternatives made it into just 9% of homes.
Despite retail volumes of meat-free products rising 15% last month compared to January 2021, the growth was from a low base. It was not enough to significantly impact its market share – remaining at 2% for the past three years.
Dairy products were bought weekly by 95% of households during January, according to AHDB. Meanwhile, the volume of dairy alternatives bought in-store dropped by 5%, leaving its share of the market fixed at 6%.
However, over the next year as inflation squeezes shoppers’ budgets, analysts at AHDB predict a deceleration of growth for red meat alternatives and dairy alternatives because they tend to be more expensive.
“Shoppers are less likely to risk trying new products when money is tight, favouring products that are familiar and cheaper," AHDB retail insight manager Grace Randall said. "In 2021, the average retail price of cow’s milk was 61p per litre compared to alternative milks which, on average, were twice as expensive at £1.21 per litre.”
In January, red meat retail sales hit £660m, with meat, fish and poultry sales up on pre-pandemic levels, rising 2% on the first three weeks of January 2020, while dairy rose 4.2%.
Return to eating out
A return to the eating-out market led to a decline in sales year-on-year this January according to the figures. But according to AHDB’s Consumer and Retail Insight team, alternative products are not coming at the expense of red meat sales.
In January 2021, 62% of shopping baskets containing a meat-free product also had meat – suggesting either shoppers were incorporating alternatives into their repertoire or have varied diets within their homes.
“It’s not a surprise to see a rise in the amount of meat alternatives sold during January, but it’s important to remember that it’s from a small base and while 9% of households buy meat-free weekly in January, that figure drops to around 6% for the remainder of the year," said Randall.