The meat-free consumer: Ethics, health and taste


Vegetarian diets are becoming increasingly appealing to consumers globally, with plant-led diets and lifestyles becoming rebrandedand two new reports show just how many factors are being taken into account by these consumers when taking the decision to adjust their eating habits.

Young Britons are changing fast and that’s driving rapid growth in the overall numbers of Britons going meat-free, with a study by The Grocer magazine showing 12% of UK residents now reject meat, which adds up to 8m people.

And as well as the people who currently don’t eat meat, the number planning to reduce meat in their diets in the year ahead is growing, with as many as 25% saying that’s on their priority lists.

The report, which is based on a survey of over 2,000 people, said that 4m specifically identify themselves as vegetarian, which is a threefold increase since a Vegetarian Society study back in 2012.

The Grocer’s survey showed 6% of people in the UK describe themselves as vegetarian, while another 4% say they’re pescetarian and as many as 2% are vegan.

The research was carried out by Harris Interactive with Lucia Juliano of the company saying “persistent media campaigns promoting plant-based eating” were key factors in the change. 

And she added that while a quarter of people in the UK are trying to reduce their meat intake over the next 12 months, this figure rises to 35% of the all-important and 18-34 age group.

Around one in six of the population are worried about the ethics of meat-eating but the younger group are the most likely to have such concerns.

Meat alternatives

That survey comes as a Mintel report also shows that 53% of Canadians say they now eat ‘meat alternatives’, including 18% who claim to eat them at least a few times a week.

The research specialist said this means the opportunity to grow meat alternatives extends well beyond consumers following plant-based diets as just 5% of Canadians say they’re vegetarian and only 2% eat vegan diets. A healthful reputation may be helping to drive the category as 21% overall agree that meat alternatives are healthier than meat.

Globally, meat substitute launches nearly doubled between 2013 and 2017, growing 90% in the last five years, according to Mintel. And while Germany leads the way, accounting for 11.9% of global meat substitute launches in 2017, the Canadian market “is ripe for innovation as Canada accounted for just 1.4% of launches in the same time frame.”

Meatless burgers (34%) and meatless poultry (32%) are the meat alternatives Canadians are most likely to consume, but other meat alternative types are gaining traction. A quarter of Canadians say they have eaten meatless hot dogs (27%), meatless deli slices (26%) and meatless bacon (23%).

Despite increasing interest, the largest barrier to eating meat alternatives is meat itself, with 69% of consumers who don’t eat alternatives saying it’s because they like meat. But 42% also say the alternatives don’t taste as good. The cost of non-meat products is also a barrier, with up to a third of consumers put off by high prices.

Meat alternatives still have a way to go, as only 23% of Canadians overall agree that meat alternatives are a sufficient substitute for meat and only 16% think that these products taste as good as meat. What’s more, of those who do eat meat alternatives, nearly a third want the products to more closely resemble meat.

Aside from mimicking the taste and texture of meat, consumers who eat meat alternatives are most likely to say protein content (40%) is an important quality when buying meat alternatives. 


For more, read our ‘Veganism Rebranded: Plant-first Retail Strategies‘ report over on WGSN Insight.

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