Convenience and health are driving product development in the meat-free zone as consumers demand simple meals made with real vegetables and pulses rather than just meat substitutes

Product development in the meat-free zone is being led by the usual suspects: convenience and health. As a result, says Simply Organic founder Belinda Mitchell: “Products that are single-serve, microwaveable and hit several different health targets at once are succeeding.”
And as more meat reducers move in to bolster the ranks of hardcore vegetarians, it seems they’re also getting fed up with the limited range of prepared foods on offer. “Our customers tell us they don’t want to be condemned to eating just meat substitutes such as tofu or Quorn,” says Mitchell. “They want simple, healthy chilled meals made from real vegetables and pulses.”
Goodlife Foods has also seen renewed interest in vegetable-based products, according to sales director Tim Clifford. And he says
shoppers are looking for products to fit more eating occasions - not just main meals - so Goodlife is developing lines such as its new rich Cheese & Spinach Bakes and Spicy Bean Quarterpounders that fit almost any meal occasion from starter to light lunch to main meal accompaniment.
At Redwood Foods, the vegetarian and vegan producer, MD Keith Stott says the focus on children’s diet and health will have an impact on the sector.
Redwood’s Vegideli Thai Fish-Style Cakes - made with chickpeas, onions and potatoes and flavoured with coconut, lime, lemongrass and galangal - have been named best new vegan product in the Vegan Society annual awards. “There’s a strong focus on ingredients, particularly levels of fat, salt and sugar and the addition of any artificial ingredients,” says Stott. “Attitudes are slowly changing as health and lifestyle issues are coming to the fore. We have an ageing and aspirational population that has acquired good nutritional education.”
This point is echoed by British Frozen Food Federation director general Alf Carr. He thinks the more processed vegetarian foods could be suffering from negative health perceptions, whether or not this is justified.
In freezer cabinets, Tivall UK country manager Jane Collins says much of the past year’s NPD has focused on range extension rather than innovation. This includes added value lines such as kievs and escalopes and the development of snacking and child-friendly products such as nuggets.