UK consumers cut meat intake but plant-based cost and taste concerns remain

By William Dodds

- Last updated on GMT

Almost half of UK consumers are reducing their meat intake. Credit: 10'000 Hours
Almost half of UK consumers are reducing their meat intake. Credit: 10'000 Hours

Related tags plant based

Almost 50% of UK consumers are reducing their meat intake according to a new report by the Smart Protein project.

Researchers surveyed more than 7,500 people in 10 European countries, and found that 48% of UK adults are cutting down on the amount of meat they consume.

In the search for alternative proteins, 22% are purchasing plant-based chicken or beef replicas, while 19% buy plant-based pork or seafood alternatives. Meanwhile, 35% now buy plant-based milk at least once a week.

When asked what was preventing them from shopping for plant-based products, 43% of UK respondents cited price, while 37% said that they don’t taste good enough.

The survey was carried out by food non-governmental organisation ProVeg International, in partnership with Innova Market Insights, the University of Copenhagen and Ghent University, as part of the EU-funded Smart Protein project.

Calls for more information and funding

Smart Protein co-ordinator, Professor Emanuele Zannini PhD, believes that consumers need to be given more clear and simple information about the ingredients that go into plant-based products if they are to become more popular.

Zannini explained: “This will encourage more and more consumers - including the more sceptical ones - to embrace, with more confidence, a shift towards a better diet for their health and for the planet. This is a clear target for food scientists and food ingredient industries​.”

Meanwhile, chief executive of the Vegetarian Society, Richard McIlwain, told Food Manufacture: "Its high time that government policy started to mirror consumer behaviour. Strategic approaches to encourage widespread adoption of a plant-based diet could turbocharge behaviour change."

A number of products use the society's vegetarian and vegan trademarks, a process that McIlwain said helps consumers to make informed decisions.

"Given the importance of meat alternatives as 'healthy, tasty and affordable', these are features we focus on," ​he added.

"Creating positive advocacy, normalising plant-based choices in the mainstream and providing clear labelling for meat free products through trademarks are critical factors to helping people transition and, more importantly, maintain giving up meat​.”

Linus Pardoe, UK policy manager at non-profit the Good Food Institute Europe, echoed this sentiment and called on policy makers to put more funding into meat alternatives.

Despite soaring demand for plant-based food in the UK, consumers here are more likely to say existing products are too expensive and aren’t tasty enough,” ​Pardoe said.

The government and British businesses must invest in research and infrastructure to bring prices down and improve quality, making these sustainable foods more appealing and widely available​.”

In other news, Food Manufacture spoke to a raft of food and drink businesses in Wales about the support they have received from the Welsh Government​​​.

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