Sales of vegetarian products are on the up with meat eaters driving growth but pricier premium offerings are struggling.

Although the number of vegetarian consumers has remained static over the past year, sales of meat-free foods have increased 5.8% to £243m and 2.8% by volume [Kantar Worldpanel 52w/e 1 November 2009].

Suppliers said that meat eaters were being attracted by the health and value ­credentials of options such as Quorn, which is seen as a lower-fat and cheaper source of protein than meat. "It is now second nature in a lot of meat-eating households to use veggie mince instead of minced meat due to its fat content," said Vanessa Brown, head of corporate relations for the Vegetarian Society.

Premier Foods said a 7% rise in sales of its Quorn business was down to a stronger focus on value over the past year. However, it added that its premium vegetarian brand Cauldron had "had a more difficult year", as consumers traded down from organic and top-end items.

The recession was also blamed for the demise of New Covent Garden Food Company's first venture outside soup.

Its ill-fated Sprout veggie ready meals were launched in Waitrose last March, but this week the company confirmed it had de-listed the range.

Nigel Parrott, New Covent Garden group marketing director, said: "New Covent Garden has a continuous new product development programme.

"A commercial decision was taken to withdraw Sprout from sale in September last year as we continued to focus on other areas of NPD."