More and more people are moving towards a plant based diet as it becomes increasingly popular with consumers. The trend is on such a high that manufacturers are having to think on their feet to meet the demand for meat alternatives. According to a new study by Forum of the Future and Flora, plant based eating is no longer niche.
What was once a fad for some is now a long-term lifestyle choice. In Britain- 35% identify as a semi-vegetarian, which is expected to grow by another 10% in 2016.
Women are leading the way with 45% admitting to eating less meat than they used to. There has also been a 350% increase in the last decade of those who have gone all the way and adopted a vegan diet.
As with all dietary shifts- this movement has acquired a label- 'the flexitarian'. For many people it's simply a way of life- cutting down on meat and eating meat alternatives.
It seems that parents are determined to pass this down to their children too as 32% believe by 2025- mums and dads wont feed their children meat based hamburgers and sausages.
This has had a huge impact on the food industry- particularly in the US which offers the biggest variety of meat alternatives on the shelves. Good news for consumers is- these products are still tasty, full of texture and nutritionally beneficial. Consequently, money is being injected into companies who specialize in meat free fare.
In the UK we are blessed with brands like Quorn and Alpro- who both plan to double their production as they expand their ranges. Supermarkets are behind these brands and are battling it out to be the first to sell the new offerings to meet demand.
Caroline Jary, Director for Spreads at Unilever UK, said: "Plant-based foods have moved from a niche market to one with mainstream appeal, offering what consumers now see as healthy lifestyle choices. Changing attitudes to fat are a big part of this, as plant and seed oils are known to contain healthy unsaturated fats versus the saturated fat that occurs in animal products. The challenge for us is to find innovative ways to stay ahead of this curve and introduce plant-based alternatives to everyday products that bring great flavour and new ingredients to the dinner table. We have focused on this market in our new product development; this year launching the vegan spread
Flora Freedom and in 2017 we will be announcing reformulations and new products to expand our plant-based range."
A change in diet has the power to reduce an individual's environmental impact. Why? About a third of land is used to grow feed for the livestock that are consumed by humans and the meat industry contributes a fifth of our total greenhouse emissions. By consuming meat, you are part of the problem when it comes to climate change, which is more damaging than all the world's planes, cars and other forms of transport emissions combined.
Mark Driscoll, Head of Food at Forum for the Future, said: "A growing number of consumers are cutting back on the types of food which have the biggest impact on our health and the health of our planet. The move towards more plant based diets is a welcome sign. Research has shown that the adoption of diets containing more plants reduce Greenhouse gas emissions, water use and biodiversity loss. They are also diets which are key to tackling the obesity crisis.
While ethical concerns are the chief driver for people adopting a plant-based diet, environmental and health benefits are motivating factors for sustaining the lifestyle. A 2014 study found Brits are increasingly receptive to trying plant-based products and are enticed by the ideals of veganism. Forty-eight percent viewed meat-free alternatives as eco-friendly, while 52% also think of them as healthier.
Jimmy Pierson, spokesperson for The Vegan Society, said: "Public perception has changed fast and plant-based eating is now seen as the easy and accessible lifestyle that it is. Vegans and vegetarians in the UK total close to 2 million with millions more now reducing their consumption of animal products or transitioning to a plant-based diet. These huge numbers show there has been a cultural change in the way we think about our food. It is clear we are increasingly wanting compassionate, healthier and more sustainable food options."
With internet traffic on plant-based diets on the rise it is encouraging the availability of products, which in turn helps more people find veganism and share information through social media or personal contact. As more people reduce their consumption of meat in favour of plant-based eating, the movement grows faster.
Zoe Gorman, Research and Policy Analyst at Counterpoint, said: "Plant-based eating marks a permanent shift in the way we think about food. The web and social media have enabled advocates, celebrities, athletes, documentary filmmakers and ordinary consumers to raise awareness about the meat, dairy and egg industries while subverting stereotypes about veganism. As more people get on board with plant-based eating, the trend is self-perpetuating."