Mintel says it’s no longer good enough just to be meat-free – new products must be healthier

Almost a quarter of new UK food product launches in 2019 were labelled vegan and almost a third of people believe eating less meat makes them healthier.

With sales of meat-free foods set to exceed £1.1 billion by 2024, market research giant Mintel says the nation is hungry for meat-free food. But a senior analyst says companies must be transparent about healthier food.

Over the past two years, the proportion of Brits who have eaten meat-free foods, including meat substitutes and ready meals, has shot up from 50% in 2017 to 65% in 2019. Meanwhile, sales of meat-free foods have grown by an impressive 40% from £582m in 2014 to an estimated £816m in 2019.

According to Mintel’s research, the proportion of meat eaters who have reduced or limited the amount of meat they consume has risen from 28% in 2017 to 39% in 2019. Women are more likely than men to have limited/reduced the amount of meat in their diets (42% compared to 36%); this rises to 45% among all under-45s. But while the meat-free market is thriving, 38% of non-users would prefer to substitute meat with other ingredients such as cheese or pulses, rather than buy meat substitutes.

And while the flexitarian diet is increasingly popular, meat remains a cornerstone of Britons’ diets, with 88% of Brits eating red meat/poultry. This comes as research from Mintel Global New Products Database (GNPD) reveals that almost a quarter (23%) of all new UK food product launches in 2019 were labelled as vegan, compared to 17% in 2018.

“As the meat-free market becomes increasingly crowded, brands will need to find more ways to distinguish themselves from their competitors – it’s no longer enough to just be meat-free,” says Kate Vlietstra, Mintel Global Food & Drink Analyst.

“Companies will need to be transparent about the healthiness of their products, and also address the quality and quantity of nutrients to win over the discerning consumer.

“Meat-free products are generally aimed towards young professionals, who tend to be receptive to trying new foods, but we are also likely to see these products targeted at both children and over-55s in the future. As food education within schools improves, it seems that the meat-free food market is missing a trick by not targeting children and families. Over-55s are likely to be attracted to functional health claims and clean labels.”

Meanwhile, environmentally-friendly packaging would prompt three-quarters (75%) of meat-free users/buyers to buy one meat-free food product over another.

When asked about the benefits of eating less meat, ‘improving the environment’ is cited by a quarter (25%) of those cutting back; but the top reason given by nearly a third of those cutting back (32%) is that it ‘helps to improve health’, followed closely by ‘it’s a good way to save money’ (31%).

The full report is available from Mintel

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