A TNS survey in December 2003 found 35% of consumers who never buy meat-free products would do so if there were more choice.
It’s a challenge vegetarian food suppliers are rising to, moving on from old favourites like nut roasts and vegetable lasagne.
Vegetarian and vegan food specialist Anglesey Natural Foods launched Quinova, a fermented form of the quinoa (pronounced keen-wa) grain, into the health food sector last year.
Already popular in the US, quinoa - the seed of a spinach-like leafy plant grown in the Andes - is high in protein, complex carbohydrates and essential amino acids, low in sodium and gluten-free.
The new Quinova product can be used in place of other grains, and it’s just one of several new products being launched in the meat-free sector.
Paul Weeks, MD of gourmet vegetarian specialist Wicken Fen, says his company, which supplies Sainsbury, has plans for ranges that include functional ingredients. It is also planning to diversify into snacking.
Details have yet to be released, but Weeks explains convenience, quality and innovation are all key in his sector.
“Consumers want to be able to cook a high quality and memorable meal in 10 minutes,” he says.
Goodlife national account manager Emma Smith agrees that convenience is paramount on new products. The company’s ranges due for launch include microwaveable ready meals such as sausage and mash, and an all-day breakfast.
Like Wicken Fen, Goodlife wants to tap the snacking market and is bringing out a range of party food for Christmas, such as tortilla bites.
Charlotte Telford, Dalepak’s marketing manager for meat-free, says three key elements that will drive growth in the meat-free sector are product innovation, quality and convenience. Dalepak
recently launched a range of Vegetable Ready Meals, including Thai Green Vegetable Curry and Vegetable Mediterranean Bake.
Telford says: “The launch of the new Vegetable Ready Meals was a direct response to the modern requirements of the meat-free, frozen, convenience food consumer - an exciting range of recipes, excellent product quality and whole fresh ingredients combined with simple and quick preparation.”
David Arrow, MD of Cauldron Foods, which produces more than 40 chilled vegetarian and organic foods, agrees convenience and innovation are key to pleasing the consumer.
He says: “With the rise in foreign travel and eating out, consumers are actively looking for foods that include interesting combinations of ingredients. We produce, for example, Falafel and Moroccan Chickpea Pâté - two of our many products that use authentic recipes or borrow from ethnic culinary styles.”
Frozen ethnic snack manufacturer Daloon says Chinese and Indian cuisines are ideal for the meat-free sector as they are often heavily vegetable-based.
Daloon’s top selling lines include mini onion bhajis and microwaveable vetarian spring rolls.