Euromonitor said that analysis of volume trends of fresh foods in its database shows that meat was one of the worst performers over the 2005-2010 period, reporting that sales grew by less than 14% over the six-year period, ahead only of vegetables, at just under 11%.
Once the choice of a minority of consumers, low-meat diets are fast becoming commonplace in the European and North American markets, where Euromonitor claims that a more complex consumer relationship with meat embraces a wide range of consumer types from “flexitarians” to vegetarians.
These consumers include the health-conscious and green-aware, and those who support animal welfare - often boosted by celebrity-led campaigns and religious consumers, in addition to thrifty consumers.
Flexitarians and red meat risks
Over the past few years, a growing number of consumers have either adopted a meat-free diet by becoming vegetarian or vegan, or have significantly reduced their meat intake due to health or environmental concerns – sometimes known as “flexitarians”, meat-reducers or meat-avoiders.
Whilst consumers have also recently begun to reduce red meat intakes on the grounds of health, safety and sustainability/environmental issues – as well as a need to reduce costs since the start of the global economic recession, said Euromonitor.
It said that healthy eating is becoming more important for many, and is often encouraged by governments which are keen to improve public health. Such government drives, including those to reduce sodium intake, reduce consumption of saturated fats and sugars, and increase intake of fruit, vegetables and pulses, have all impacted meat consumption.
According to Euromonitor International's Health and Wellness data, the strongest growth in meat substitutes occurred in the ready meals segment, which high profile manufacturers such as Kellogg – via its Morningstar Farm, Kashi and Gardenburger subsidiaries – and the UK's Quorn Foods are developing strongly.
Whilst such reductions have also offered unprecedented opportunities for manufacturers of a variety of meat substitutes, the trend has also made space for vegetarian packaged foods, nuts and pulses, vitamins and dietary supplements and other meat-free products.
Euromonitor said it predicts that a gradually growing population of vegetarians, semi-vegetarians, meat-reducers and ‘vegivores’ is set to consume more meat-free foods than ever before, and become increasingly adventurous in their tastes.
It added that with vegetables touted as being ‘the new meat’ and ‘veganomics’ being a key emerging trend, while most of the global population remains staunchly carnivorous, the vegetable divide is expected to widen.
On a global level, Euromonitor said that sales of meat alternatives are predicted to increase by 15% in value from 2010 to 2015, but noted that there is additional ‘massive potential’ for non meat-based foods of all types.