Following the insights from Datamonitor Consumer last month, that flexitarianism – a lifestyle diet where consumers reduce rather than cut out meat – was gaining ground, GlobalMeatNews carried out a poll to find out whether this was the case.
Of those people surveyed, 48% said they had previously considered reducing their meat consumption, and had actively reduced it. Eight per cent said they had thought about reducing it, but were still consuming the same amount, while 12% said they didn’t feel any need to reduce the amount of meat they were eating.
Datamonitor said its research suggested people around the globe were choosing to limit their intake of meat and animal products, which it said could threaten the trend for high-protein diets, with its own data claiming a third (31%) were opting for a flexitarianism-style diet.
This echoed the views of Euromonitor International, which suggested that this trend was more prominent in certain regions.
Anastasia Alieva, head of fresh food research at Euromonitor International, told GlobalMeatNews that Euromonitor had noticed a definite trend for consumers reducing their intake of red meats in North America and Western Europe – "particularly in Germany".
However, she said this had been to pork’s advantage in the US, with sales growing, because despite being classed as a red meat, consumers view it as "the other white meat".
Tanvi Savara, food and drink analyst at Datamonitor Consumer, said that negative health claims about the consumption of meat were a key driver in the trend for meat reduction. "Three in four global consumers who limit their meat intake claim to be making conscious attempts to eat more healthily," she said.
She told GlobalMeatNews that flexitarianism had come to the fore in the past two or three years. As such, Datamonitor included questions in its most recent global survey (2014) in order to allow it to assess attitudes to meat consumption; which it plans to track going forward.
The survey comprised the responses from 25,000 consumers across 25 different countries.
Twenty-four per cent of those surveyed said they followed a low meat diet, 52% said they had no dietary requirements, while 13% said they had a high meat diet. Only six per cent said they were vegetarian, 3% pescetarian and 1% vegan.
"Three in 10 global consumers surveyed by Datamonitor Consumer are trying to limit their intake of meat, which is significantly higher than those limiting their poultry (20%) and fish (9%) intake," said Savara.
"The reasons for exercising such restraint are varied, and include religious and cultural beliefs, ethical and environmental considerations, rising grocery prices, and a desire to eat more healthily."
Savara said Datamonitor’s 2013 global survey revealed women were more likely to follow a flexitarian diet – making a more conscious decision to reduce the amount of meat in their diet on an ongoing basis. A third of women said they were reducing their intake, compared to 28% of men.
"Another interesting observation based on demographic data is that older consumers are more likely to adopt a low meat diet. Understandably, health issues such as high cholesterol are a bigger concern among this consumer segment than younger demographics. They are thus more likely to turn to restrained meat eating to offset any health concerns they might have," said added.
Twenty-three per cent of 18- to 24-year-olds said they were trying to limit their meat consumption, compared to 39% of over-65s. Happily for the meat industry there were also 7% who said they tried to eat as much meat as possible.
Datamonitor’s research also revealed that consumers in both developed and developing countries were adopting this lifestyle diet, with 41% of Germans claiming to be actively restraining their meat intake, and 43% claiming to do so in the United Arab Emirates.
"This reflects a broader health consciousness that is permeating through society today. While health is a key motivator, other factors such as the cost of living and ethical consumerism also play a part in driving this consumer behaviour," said Savara.
"Our findings reinforce the perceived negative health impacts associated with meat consumption, and the importance of appealing to those who adopt a flexitarian approach to eating. Industry players will need to do more to proactively educate consumers about the nutritional benefits of meat consumption."