GOING vegan has been hailed as one of the hottest consumer trends of 2018/19 and demand for vegan products and vegan menus has grown exponentially. With sales of over £286 million in the UK it is the second largest market globally for meat substitutes, after the USA (Passport, 2018). In 2017, products which claim to be suitable for vegetarians/vegans accounted for 40 per cent of the total packaged food market (Mintel. 2018). Vegan consumers are those that choose to consume a plant-based diet avoiding all animal foods, for example, meat (including fish), shellfish and insects as well as their byproducts such as dairy, eggs and honey. The Vegan Society state that “veganism is a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose”. Within the UK Monde Nissin-owned brand Quorn remains the market leader, accounting for 44 per cent of the British meat substitutes market (Passport, 2018). When it comes to creating new vegan/ vegetarian products, the latest figures show the UK ranks third globally (11 per cent) behind the US (17 per cent) and Germany (18 per cent) (Mintel, 2016). But what is fuelling the demand for vegan living? In a US survey by Winsight Grocery Business (2018) millennials (those born between
1981 and 1996) were asked why they were interested in consuming a meat-free diet. Results revealed that health (51 per cent) and health concerns (37 per cent) were the most common reasons for abstaining from meat. Consumer health concerns relating to red meat, in particular its association with high cholesterol and coronary heart disease, has meant consumers are reducing the amount of meat they eat on a daily basis. However, it is important to note that UK consumers are not entirely eliminating meat from their diets, but rather favouring a ‘flexitarian’ approach. This means reducing the amount of meat they eat or simply limiting their meat consumption in favour of better quality cuts or higher welfare meat products which are
organic or free range (Mintel. 2018). Furthermore, health conscious consumers are seeking products which promote ‘clean living’ with products making claims such as ‘hormone-free’, ‘antibiotic-free’ and ‘vegancertified’ (Passport, 2018). Other key drivers fuelling the vegan trend include rising food costs as meat is perceived as an expensive part of the grocery budget, therefore consumers are seeking-out cheaper alternative sources of protein. Also, sustainability concerns relating to meat production and its impact on the environment has meant consumers are demanding products which are ethically produced, promote animal welfare and encourage a positive ecological footprint. Keeping these drivers in mind it is unlikely that the demand for vegan products will subside anytime soon, challenging the position of leading players within the meat industry. The development of new meatless ‘meat’ products and lab-produced meats is predicted to continue, due to ongoing improvements in mimicking the texture and taste of real meat. Therefore, diversification will become a crucial strategy for meat producers (Passport, 2018). Although there has been a significant amount of product development in the meat-free segment as more and more meat alternatives hit the shelves, there has been less activity in developing “fish-free” popular fish type products such as tuna, scampi and
fishcakes. Over the past 12 months staff in the Ulster University Business School Food and Consumer Sensory Testing Suite (FACTS) have been developing a “fish-free” tuna type product (which will be promoted as “toona-type”) to offer both vegans and fish consumers an alternative that can be readily substituted for tuna. The product is gluten and soy free, rich in protein and omega-3, using only sustainable ingredients and offers all the sensory attributes you would expect from tuna. As Dr Amy Burns, Director of FACTS, stated: “Plant-based meat, fish and dairy alternatives are not just for vegetarians or vegans anymore; now even mainstream consumers are enjoying these delicious and innovative options in the market today. “We are delighted that we can offer a ‘seafood’ choice that has the rich flavours and flaky texture that you would expect from Albacore or similar tuna species. We hope to have the product on the shelves in the next few months and just in time for summer salads.” Currently the natural meat-free market is a developing one, as companies respond to the consumer’s changing habits and desires. As factors such as sustainability and advances in food technology receive increasing attention, the demand for meat-free products will continue to grow. The vegan diet looks set to

Period11 Apr 2020

Media contributions


Media contributions

  • TitleThe rise of the vegan consumer
    Degree of recognitionRegional
    Media name/outletFarm Week - Irish News Ltd
    Media typePrint
    Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
    PersonsLynsey Elizabeth Hollywood