Health concerns about the consumption of red meat are the top driver for a booming meat-free market in the UK, which has grown 20% over the past five years, according to market research organisation Mintel.
The market researcher says that 15% of British people now choose to avoid red meat, with most of them doing so due to health and lifestyle reasons. Meanwhile, about 6% of British people describe themselves as vegetarians, and 2% avoid red meat due to an allergy or intolerance.
Senior food and drink analyst at Mintel Amy Price said in a statement: “Perfectly positioned to thrive in the current climate, meat-free foods benefit from a cost, health, ethical and environmental stand as well as providing variety in consumer diets. The rising cost of meat has propped up past performance and could act as a boost to the meat-free market in the future.”
Mintel estimated the value of the meat-free market at £607m (about €752m) in 2012, with around a third of sales in the ready meals segment. Pastry and snacks round out the top three meat-free foods by sales value, it said.
Chilled foods account for 70% of sales, and frozen make up the remaining 30%.
Thirty-eight per cent of British people say they have bought vegetarian or meat-free foods, while 13% say they buy vegetarian or meat-free foods as a cheaper alternative to meat, fish or poultry.
“The sizeable group of health-conscious consumers are ripe for targeting through vegetarian or meat-free foods and meat substitutes, possibly along the lines of ‘stealth health’, encouraging families to swap a meat-based meal for one that is vegetarian and therefore better for them,” Price said.
In addition, two per cent of the UK population avoids red meat because they have an allergy or intolerance.
However, the meat-free market still faces challenges, particularly with taste perception. Mintel said that more than a third of British people (36%) think that vegetarian foods taste bland, while 42% say that they do not like meat substitutes.