TNS Superpanel values the entire frozen and chilled meat free category at £539m, and reports that sales have shot up by over 16% in the year to February 3 2002. Chilled has led the growth at over 17.5%. Heinz, which owns frozen brand Linda McCartney, says the £178.7m frozen sector has done nearly as well, increasing 12.7%. "There's strong growth in most frozen sectors, with grills up 15%, burgers 14%, and sausages 19%," says Linda McCartney marketing manager Rachel Moffat. Growth isn't being driven by a dramatic increase in the number of vegetarians, static at around four million according to the Vegetarian Society, but by the growing number of people trying to eat more healthily who see reducing the amount of meat they consume as one way to achieve this. "It is the meat reducers who are really driving the market forward," says Moffat. "They are people who believe in cutting down on meat, but by no means eliminating it completely, and think eating more vegetables is healthier. For them, the government message of eating five pieces of fruit or vegetables a day has become a mass market mantra for the healthy diet." The number of meat reducers has increased to 46% of the population, according to Haldane Foods which has monitored the market for 20 years through its annual Realeat Survey. Commercial director David Jones believes consumer concern over a variety of health issues is the driving force behind the trend to meat reduction. "In our 2001 Realeat survey, 52% of those interviewed expressed concerns relating to BSE and foot and mouth disease, plus cholesterol levels and heart disease. And these concerns are motivating many people to reduce their meat intake," says Jones. "The effect on the meat free category is that it is no longer the preserve of a minority but the food of choice of those who wish to maintain a healthier lifestyle. Our researches show meat free products are increasing in acceptability, with 40% of consumers eating them as a family. So we're aiming to provide meal solutions in formats that meat eaters find familiar in order to make the decision to replace meat in their diets easier," says Jones. Haldane believes another key to growth is the use of functional ingredients with healthy attributes, such as soya. "There's considerable scientific evidence that soya in the diet can help to provide a number of health benefits, such as helping to maintain a healthy heart by controlling cholesterol," says Jones. Wicken Fen also believes the functional benefits of ingredients like soya will become increasingly important to meat reducers. The company recently launched Mini Soya nuggets in chilled and frozen formats at rsp £1.79 for 200g for use as a meal centre, component or as a finger food with dips. MD Paul Weeks says: "In addition to the established benefits of soya, the nuggets include Inulin, a natural fibre and pre-biotic which helps healthy bacteria naturally occurring in the gut." Weeks says the nuggets have already been successful enough to warrant further line extensions in the form of coated soya fillets which will be launched before the summer. Increasing innovation across the category has provided consumers with a much needed greater choice. Manufacturers have also been repositioning meat free products to emphasise their taste rather than the fact they are vegetarian in order to appeal to the meat reducers. Goodlife Foods has been taking this approach. "Our range has been put together to offer tasty vegetable-based alternatives to meat with universal appeal to non-meat eaters and meat eaters alike," says md Nick Hamlett. "We believe vegetarian food should be aimed at and appeal to everyone, so we have upgraded and repackaged all of our range to communicate that this food is tasty and suitable for both vegetarians and meat eaters. We want to make this type of food mainstream and we think it should be sold this way," says Hamlett. The packaging communicates the fact that Goodlife's products are made with real vegetables and are not meat replacement products made from vegetable protein. "We feel this is an important message to get over when appealing to a wider audience," he adds. Goodlife has relaunched its vegetable sausages and falafel, which now comes with a separate yogurt mint dip, for the snack market. It is also relaunching its organic burgers and, in August, is moving into branded vegetarian ready meals with a new frozen range, having already successfully trialled this sector for own label. "Again, the meals will be marketed as tasty food, rather than specifically vegetarian," says Hamlett. Dalepak is also pursuing the wider audience of meat reducers and to do so is broadening its range of frozen vegetable based products. "A lot of vegetarians eat the same things over and over again. So to attract more people into this market we need to offer more choice in the freezer," says marketing director Richard Holt. This month it is introducing two new lines ­ Vegetable Curry Grills and Mushroom and Swiss Cheese Burgers ­ and is phasing in new packaging. "The redesign creates a brighter, more modern look, strengthens the brand with our trademark ribbon against a green background, and emphasises the high quality of the products through photography," says Holt. The new developments are being supported by a £500,000 consumer media advertising spend. Of the seven current ranges in Dalepak's meat free offer, Holt says the bestseller is cauliflower cheese grills which has grown 11% [ACNielsen] in the last year, followed by vegetable grills and vegetable quarter pounders. "A popular buy with mothers are vegetable fingers which are aimed at kids and have gained 10% in the last year," adds Holt. Heinz's Moffat says ready meals are the key to attracting new consumers. "This is where people start and then move on to other sectors. Ready meals is the largest sector in frozen and has grown 2%. In the last year ready meals have been pulling consumers back into the market." The Linda McCartney brand is worth £28m and Moffat says it is now back in growth at around 4% following a difficult patch when GMOs found in soya had a detrimental effect on sales. "We moved out of soya and into wheat and pea protein, relaunching the brand last year with new packaging. Before, we had three different pack designs and were losing an element of focus. At the same time we improved our three core lines ­ sausages, shepherd's pie and country pies," says Moffat. Last autumn four new contemporary recipes were introduced to the Kitchen Garden range. "They have taken the lead in our range among retailers who are listing them. Looking to the future, we have further npd planned," says Moffat. The brand will benefit from a £3m advertising and marketing spend this year. In the chilled sector, Cauldron Foods has the lead in vegetarian sausages [TNS] and has achieved considerable success in the last two years with an organic range that includes tofu, vegetable pâtés, nut roasts and vegetarian sausages. Sales for this range, bought largely by the female 22 to 45 age group, have risen 53% in the last year, according to the company. It is now extending the range with bite-sized organic snack foods. "We specialise in unusual and innovative vegetarian foods for which we have grown a large audience of mainstream consumers via widespread distribution in the multiples and sales through health stores," says senior national account manager Steve Baker. Last month it made its first step into the freezer cabinet with a frozen version of its bestselling Leek & Cheese Sausages made with tofu. "It's a natural progression and follows requests from the major multiples," adds Baker. The immense versatility of Marlow Foods' Quorn is continuing to drive spectacular sales for this mycoprotein made from mushrooms. The brand has an 8% share of the frozen and chilled market and is seeing a 30% year-on-year increase [TNS 52 w/e March 3 2002]. Marlow Foods says the 30% increase reflects the fact that seven out of 10 people who tried Quorn products during the food scares of 1999 now eat it regularly. The extensive range now includes pieces, mince and fillets for ingredients, plus burgers, sausages, pâtés and roasts. Redwood, which does meat and dairy analogue products such as Cheatin' Meats in ham, beef, turkey and chicken flavours, and Cheezly, a dairy free alternative to cheese, also reports dramatic growth for its 40-strong range. Director Jeremy King says growth is being driven by research and development which is yielding a new strain of innovative products, such as its recently launched turkey-style Celebration Roast. This comes ready sliced with vegetarian gourmet sausages wrapped in streaky-style vegetarian rashers and turkey flavour gravy, yet is totally free from animal ingredients. The company has also branched into organics, its latest being an Organic Rasher with a bacon flavour, Lincolnshire Sausages made from soya and wheat protein, and Organic Frankfurthers. {{FOCUS SPECIALS }}