A plant-based revolution
Mark Driscoll considers the shift away from carnivorous diets – what’s driving it, what are consumers looking for and how can the food industry rise to the challenge of catering for their fast-evolving tastes?
What do Richard Branson, Bill Gates, Li Ka-shing and Google Founder Sergey Brin have in common? Apart from being some of the world’s richest men, they have all invested heavily in plant-based and ‘clean meat’ start-ups over the last 12 months. Why are they doing this? They have recognised that we are in the midst of a plant-based food revolution, driven by consumer concerns around health, sustainability and animal welfare that will have a significant impact on our plates, palate and planet in the years to come. The days of meat being the star of our plates are coming to an end. Plant-based diets have skyrocketed in popularity over the last couple of years, with the numbers of vegans, vegetarians and flexitarians (those wanting to increase their intake of plant-based meals without completely eliminating meat) increasing rapidly since 2016, in the UK and Europe.
In the UK, more than 3.5 million British people – over five per cent of the population – now identify themselves as vegan. According to Mintel, over a quarter of consumers (28 per cent) reduced or limited their meat consumption in the first six months of 2017. While health and ethical concerns have been the biggest driver of behavioural change, particularly among digital-savvy millennials and Generation Z, 39 per cent of those consciously reducing their meat intake say that meat reduction campaigns (National Vegetarian Week, Veganuary etc) have made them aware of the impacts of meat consumption. In addition, meat-free choices have become more widely available within the market place, as retailers and food brands innovate to develop new products for a growing market.
The upshot of this trend is that eating more plants for ethical, environmental or health reasons is no longer a habit of a niche of consumers – and that a more sustainable food culture, driven by plant-based eating, continues to accelerate beyond millennials in the UK and beyond.
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