veggie burger

The flexitarian trend is driving growth of meat-free food, with sales up £17.2m over the past year [Kantar Worldpanel 52 w/e 29 January 2017]. Burgers, ready meals, sausages, and snacks such as scotch eggs contributed the bulk of the success as Brits cut their meat intake.

Concerns about health and the environment were the main drivers, said Matt Lee, director at shopper media agency Capture.

“Although the number of vegetarians and vegans is well known to be growing year on year, the main driver for growth in meat-free sales is a greater proportion of people choosing to cut back on meat,” he added.

The most significant aspect about the growth was the age group from which it was coming, said Lee. “Some 12% of people now follow vegetarian or vegan diets - rising to 20% of those aged between 16 and 24.”

Brands are reaping the benefits as retailers offer more space to meat-free, particularly in the chilled aisles. “Chilled is growing ahead of frozen by quite a way,” said Julian Cooke, head of UK category management for Quorn. “We’ve done a lot of work over the past year with retailers to grow category space for chilled.”

Value sales are up 13.5% in the chillers compared with 2.1% in frozen, though the latter still holds the majority share of the category with 59.4% [Kantar].

Bol, the meal pot brand founded by former Innocent head of food Paul Brown, is hoping to cash in as it goes meat-free from June. The brand will get a new logo, an ‘eat plants, love life’ slogan, and a revamped lineup. Jamaican Jerk Chicken, for example, will be replaced by a ­vegetable recipe.

A 2016 Vegetarian Society survey found three in 10 Brits cut meat consumption that year. A further one in 10 were considering doing so.

Click here to read this week’s Focus On meat-free