Mintel: UK vegan claims double in three years

5 Nov 2018

November is World Vegan Month, and the latest research from Mintel reveals a surge in vegan claims in the UK meat-free foods market.

Mintel: UK vegan claims double in three years

November is World Vegan Month, and the latest research from Mintel reveals a surge in vegan claims in the UK meat-free foods market. According to Mintel research, the share of meat-free new products carrying a vegan/no animal ingredients claim nearly doubled between 2014-17.

This growing profile of vegan foods is reflected by the fact that in 2017, more than half (52%) of new product launches in the meat-free foods market were vegan/contained no animal ingredients up from 28% in 2014, according to Mintel Global New Products Database (GNPD). The significant growth in the availability of vegan products in the meat-free foods market will appeal to the 26% of consumers who prefer meat-free products to be plant-based rather than containing eggs or dairy. Mintel’s latest research also highlights that the popularity of meat-free foods extends well beyond the small pool of non-meat eaters that describe themselves as vegan.

Keen to get a slice of the meat-free action, as many as 56% of UK adults have eaten vegetarian/meat-free foods in the six months to July 2018, a significant increase from the 50% who had eaten these foods in the six months to March 2017. Estimated to reach £740 million in 2018, sales of meat-free foods (including a growing range of vegan products) have shot up 22% between 2013-18. Growth is set to continue as value sales of the meat-free market are forecast to increase by a further 44% by 2023 to reach £1.1 billion.

Alyson Parkes, Research Analyst at Mintel, said: “Although the meat-free market is not vegan by definition, there has been a significant increase in the number of new products that carry a vegan claim. The buzz surrounding ‘Veganuary’ gained momentum in January 2018, with a raft of vegan products launching to capitalise on the month-long meat-free movement. Vegan claims in the market span own-label products, as well as branded ones, signalling that supermarkets are also keen to capitalise on this interest. The appeal of meat-free products also extends far beyond the still very limited pool of vegan consumers. The rising profile of meat-free products and plant-based diets has been helped by activity in the foodservice arena and a significant advertising push in 2018, which has increased the visibility and awareness of these products among consumers, as well as injected excitement into the category.”

While 90% of Brits are red meat/poultry eaters, Mintel research highlights consumer interest in limiting/reducing meat consumption remains strong, as 34% of meat eaters reduced their meat consumption in 2018. Younger Brits aged 25-34 are the most likely (40%) to have reduced meat consumption in the last year. A further 21% of meat eaters say that they would be interested in limiting/reducing their meat consumption in the future, highlighting the growing appeal of meat reduction and the opportunity for meat-free foods.

The top three perceived benefits of eating less meat are improving health (32%), saving money (31%), and being better for the environment (25%). Despite improving health being seen as the top benefit, considerably fewer consumers associate eating less meat with helping to manage weight (25%) or reducing the risk of disease (22%).

“The UK’s overarching health trend has underpinned meat reduction behaviours, with consumers increasingly looking for better-for-you food and drink products. However, the benefits associated with eating less meat extend far beyond health, also encompassing animal ethics and the environment. The multi-dimensional appeal of the meat-free trend bodes well for its longevity,” said Parkes.

Tasting like meat is the top enticing factor for 26% of non-/infrequent eaters of vegetarian/meat-free foods. There is also some interest in products that replicate meat in other ways, with 15% of this consumers group agreeing that meat-free burgers which ‘bleed’ are appealing; rising to 25% of 16-34-year-olds.

Despite this, Mintel research confirms that there is some confusion and concern surrounding meat-free foods, with 44% of Brits unclear about what ingredients are used in these foods. With two-fifths (41%) of consumers agreeing that meat-free foods with a shorter list of ingredients are more appealing than those with longer ingredient lists, and a further 31% believing that meat-free foods are too processed to be healthier than meat, transparency is key in order to reassure consumers and build trust.

“Several companies have recently launched revolutionary plant-based burgers that mimic the same ‘bleeding’ quality as animal-based meat burgers when cooked. This meat-replicating feature certainly makes the concept of meat-free foods more newsworthy and intriguing for consumers which, combined with health credentials, ethical claims and environmental considerations, creates a compelling proposition. This visual aspect also makes these products highly ‘Instagrammable’, and can help catch the eye of experimental foodies, as well as a wider audience,” said Parkes.